North Korea has sent over 260 balloons filled with trash into South Korea, causing authorities to warn people to stay inside. South Korea’s military advised against touching the white balloons and the plastic bags they carried, as they contain dirty waste.

These balloons have been found in eight out of nine South Korean provinces and are currently being examined. Both North and South Korea have used balloons for propaganda since the Korean War in the 1950s. South Korea’s military is checking if any of the recent balloons contained North Korean propaganda leaflets.

This incident comes shortly after North Korea threatened to respond to South Korean activists sending leaflets and other items across the border. North Korea’s vice-minister of defense, Kim Kang Il, stated that South Korea would soon see a lot of trash scattered over its border areas, making cleanup difficult.

On Tuesday night, residents north of Seoul and near the border received messages asking them to stay indoors and report any strange objects to the military or police. Photos on social media show bags with items like toilet paper, dark soil, and batteries tied to the balloons. Some of these balloons seemed to contain feces based on their color and smell, according to Yonhap news agency.

South Korea’s military condemned the balloon attacks as a violation of international law, saying they endanger people’s safety and holding North Korea responsible. They demanded that North Korea stop these actions immediately.

In the past, South Korean activists have used balloons to send anti-North Korea messages, cash, banned media, and snacks like Choco Pies across the border. Recently, a South Korean activist group claimed they sent balloons with anti-North Korea leaflets and USB sticks containing K-pop music.

In December 2020, South Korea passed a law making it illegal to send anti-North Korea leaflets, but some critics argue this limits freedom of speech and human rights. North Korea has also sent trash-filled balloons to South Korea before. In 2016, some balloons reportedly carried toilet paper, cigarette butts, and other waste, which Seoul police labeled as hazardous.

Published: 29th May 2024

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