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North Korea sends balloons with feces, trash attached into South Korea

Click to play video: 'North Korea sending balloons filled with feces, trash over South Korean border: officials'
North Korea sending balloons filled with feces, trash over South Korean border: officials
South Korean residents said on Wednesday they were 'anxious' after North Korea was alleged to have sent numerous balloons across their heavily fortified border to drop objects, including trash and excrement – May 29, 2024

An extreme version of slinging mud pies on the playground is playing out on the Korean peninsula as North Korea took responsibility for sending hundreds of balloons filled with feces and trash over its border with South Korea.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said about 260 North Korean balloons have been found all over the country as of Wednesday afternoon. Chemical and explosive response teams have been sent out to recover the balloons and debris.

This photo provided by South Korea Defence Ministry, shows balloons with trash in South Chungcheong Province, South Korea, on Wednesday. South Korea Presidential Office via AP

Photos released by the military show some still-intact white balloons with trash bags attached to them while others show scattered pieces of plastic and paper on city streets. Apart from the trash, the South Korean military says manure and animal feces were also deployed by some of the balloons. So far, no human excrement has been found.

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An alert was sent to South Korean residents warning them to stay inside and to report any balloon sightings to authorities. Most of the balloons landed near border provinces, but some made it hundreds of miles south to South Gyeongsang.

Trash from a balloon sent by North Korea seen strewn on a street in Seoul, South Korea, on Wednesday. South Korea Presidential Office via AP

North Korea’s vice defence minister Kim Kang Il said the bizarre provocation was a “tit-for-tat” move in retaliation for South Korean activists sending balloons across the border with leaflets criticizing North Korea’s human rights abuses. The balloons sometimes include USBs that contain K-pop music videos and K-drama TV shows, which are banned in the authoritarian state.

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“Tit-for-tat action will be also taken against frequent scattering of leaflets and other rubbish (by South Korea) near border areas,” Kim said Sunday. “Mounds of wastepaper and filth will soon be scattered over the border areas and the interior of (South Korea) and it will directly experience how much effort is required to remove them.”

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South Korea’s military said in a statement that the North’s balloons “violate international law and seriously threaten our people’s safety.”

“(We) sternly warn North Korea to immediately stop these inhumane and vulgar acts.”

Trash from a balloon sent by North Korea seen strewn on a street in Seoul, South Korea, on Wednesday. South Korea Presidential Office via AP

This statement caught the attention of Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, who argued that North Korea is merely exercising its freedom of expression by sending the balloons. The Seoul government has used freedom of expression as a reason for why it’s unable to stop activists from sending leaflets over the border.

“Once you experience how nasty and exhausting it feels to go around picking up dirty filth, you will realize that you shouldn’t talk about freedom of expression so easily when it comes to (leafletting) in border areas,” she said. “We will make it clear that we will respond with tens more times the amount of filth to what the (South Koreans) spray to us in the future.”

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There were no immediate reports of damage caused by the balloons. Similar North Korean balloon activities damaged cars and other property in 2016.

In this photo provided by Jeonbuk Fire Headquarters, balloons with trash hang on electric wires as South Korean army soldiers stand guard in Muju, South Korea, on Wednesday. Jeonbuk Fire Headquarters via AP

The balloon campaign came as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un urged his military scientists to overcome a failed satellite launch and continue developing space-based reconnaissance capabilities, which he described as crucial for countering U.S. and South Korean military activities, state media said Wednesday.

In his first public comments about the launch failure, Kim also warned of unspecified “overwhelming actions” against South Korea over an exercise involving 20 fighter jets near the inter-Korean border hours before North Korea’s failed launch on Monday. In a speech Tuesday, Kim described the South Korean response as a “hysterical attack formation flight and strike drill” and “direct military challenge” toward North Korea, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said Wednesday.

Animosities between the Koreas are at their worst level in years as the pace of both Kim’s weapons demonstrations and South Korea’s combined military exercises with the U.S. and Japan have intensified since 2022.

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— With files from The Associated Press

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