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Thursday, June 13, 2024

North Korea flies 260 feces-filled balloons across border to the South

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South Korea’s military confirmed on Wednesday that North Korea had sent over more than 260 balloons carrying feces and trash to the South on Tuesday night, marking the largest-ever daily balloon launch from the North.

Military and police personnel are currently collecting balloons that have landed in South Korean territory, with packages containing excrement and trash attached to them.

Authorities said timers and explosives were attached to a string connecting balloons and the trashed-filled packages in order to make the balloon burst after a certain amount of time passed. They are also checking whether propaganda leaflets are among the contents of the balloons.

Left: The two balloons discovered in South Chungcheong on Tuesday. Right: A package presumed to contain feces carried by a balloon was discovered in northern Gyeonggi on Wednesday. Inset: An emergency alert sent to South Koreans living in Gyeonggi and northern Seoul on Tuesday night. [JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFFS, YONHAP, SCREEN CAPTURE]

Some balloons were still airborne on Wednesday morning.

Fallen balloons traveled far and were found in the South’s capital Seoul and the provinces of Gyeonggi, Chungcheong, Gyeongsang and Jeolla.

On Tuesday evening, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) announced that the military was responding to unidentified objects appearing in border areas in Gangwon and Gyeonggi, which seemingly carried North Korean propaganda materials.

The JCS condemned the North’s balloon launch, saying it “violated the international law and seriously threatened the safety of the Korean people.” It also “sternly advised” North Korea to “immediately cease such inhumane and tacky actions.”

“Military personnel specializing in handling biological, chemical and radiological agents and explosives are collecting the balloons on the ground,” the JCS said.

Two balloons with a package presumably carrying feces are spotted. [YTN]

The authorities advised people to steer clear of unknown objects and to report any sightings to nearby military bases or police.

The presidential office on the same day said the North “seems to be testing whether South Koreans are psychologically perturbed” by its actions and promised that the government will “respond calmly” to it.

On Sunday, Pyongyang warned Seoul that it would retaliate against anti-North Korean balloon launches by North Korean defector groups in South Korea, threatening to disperse “countless used toilet papers and filth” in South Korean regions near the inter-Korean border.

North Korean defector groups occasionally launch balloons containing materials denouncing the Kim Jong-un regime.

Tuesday’s incident of launching “dirty balloons” is not unprecedented. A similar event occurred in 2016 when North Korea sent balloons packed with cigarette butts and used toilet paper.

With North Korean objects floating in the South’s airspace, South Korean authorities issued an emergency alert at 11:34 p.m. on Tuesday, notifying people about the balloons and the potential danger they posed.

The alert, written in both Korean and English, stated, “[The authorities] have identified objects that seem to carry North Korean propaganda leaflets” in Korean and “Air raid Preliminary warning” in English.

The use of the term “raid” caused confusion among residents in northern Seoul and Gyeonggi, sparking concerns about evacuation or the possibility of war.

A police official said on Wednesday that “a number of inquiries about the alert message followed” after it was sent out.

BY BAE JAE-SUNG, LEE SOO-JUNG [lee.soojung1@joongang.co.kr]