1. Home
  2. international
  3. Why is North Korea sending hundreds of trash and turd-filled balloons to South Korea?

Why is North Korea sending hundreds of trash and turd-filled balloons to South Korea?

Why is North Korea sending hundreds of trash and turd-filled balloons to South Korea?
Relations between North Korea and South Korea have been strained for decades, but we still didn’t see the excrement-filled balloons coming — despite a North Korean official promising exactly that.

The physical distance between Seoul in South Korea and Pyongyang in the North is less than 200 kilometres, but the two cities couldn’t be more different from each other. With tensions rife between the two halves of the Korean peninsula, authorities and citizens seem to be running out of options to annoy the other side. Enter: balloons and bottles with messages.

What North Korea recently pulled made our noses wrinkle but it made its feelings towards the South very abundantly clear when it floated balloons filled with garbage and faeces into South Korea earlier this week. Seoul’s military sounded emergency warnings late on Tuesday in order to alert border-town residents to avoid stepping outside due to “suspicious objects” floating in the sky.

By Wednesday, at least 260 such white balloons were recovered from various parts of the South, as reported by Yonhap News Agency. The balloons contained an assortment of waste, including plastic, paper, batteries and manure. And while the North had dispatched human excrement back in 2016, these recent ones fortunately didn’t seem to have traces of those.

However, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) have made it clear that the North’s actions violate international law and threaten the safety of their people. It has warned them to stop this “inhumane and vulgar act” immediately.

The North and South have been squabbling in this fashion for years. And we can only imagine that these trashy balloons are their mediaeval age-equivalent of sending severed body parts to the enemy camp in a bid to threaten or warn. But what prompted such vitriol from North Korea this time?
A tit-for-tat reckoning
On Sunday, a North Korean official announced to the world that they would be scattering “mounds of wastepaper and filth” over the South in a tit-for-tat action. The ‘tat’ in question here was the distribution of anti-Pyongyang leaflets criticising leader Kim Jong-un by South Korea.

Other cargo that was floated across the North Korean border included USB memory sticks filled with popular news shows, k-dramas and k-pop music videos — all of which are banned in the North. We knew that there’s lot of haters of the Black Pink and BTS, but this is next level.

For context, North Korean defector groups and other campaigners in South Korea have been flying leaflets filled with propaganda to the North via balloons to encourage their North Korean comrades to rise up against the Pyongyang regime. Unsurprisingly, the dictatorship has not taken kindly to these groups attempts at ‘educating’ their countrymen, fearing that this outside information could jeopardise Kim Jong-un’s authority.

After repeated calls for an end to this balloon-led campaign, the South Korean parliament passed a bill to ban launching of propaganda leaflets into North Korea back in 2020. However, this move was heavily criticised and condemned by human rights activists as a violation of freedom of speech. And the three-year imprisonment or $36,000 fine did not deter activists.

Back in 2022, a North Korean-defector turned activist launched a million propaganda leaflets into North Korea. In general, the Seoul government has been unable to halt anti-North Korean activists from launching leaflets across the border, taunted Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, in her statement about the recent incidents.

The balloons are "whole-hearted gifts" for the South Koreans "who cry for freedom of speech" and they will have to keep picking them up, she said in the statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
North and South Korea relations remain strained
The relationship between the two countries has long been a long-standing geopolitical concern, as both are still technically at war with each other because no peace treaty has been signed since the Korean War (1950-1953).

Recent escalations came amid tensions surrounding Pyongyang’s failure to launch its second military spy satellite into orbit. An explosion of the rocket during the first-stage flight was cited as the reason for the botched mission.

According to Yonhap, South Korea, the US and Japan have all condemned the latest launch, calling it a violation of UN Security Council resolutions banning the North from any such launches using ballistic missile technology.

Meanwhile, the South Korean military also detected signs of North Korea trying and failing to jam GPS signals by the de facto inter-Korean sea border in the Yellow Sea early Wednesday, said a JCS official. But no military operations were interrupted.


Popular Right Now