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North Korea sends garbage balloons to South Korea again

North Korea sends garbage balloons to South Korea again

(Seoul) – North Korea once again sent balloons filled with garbage into South Korea on Saturday, the South Korean military said, a day after Seoul warned of retaliatory measures if Pyongyang continues the operation.

Earlier this week, North Korea sent about 260 balloons filled with garbage, including used batteries, cigarette butts and animal feces, to the South, according to the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Seoul condemned this action, describing it as “low-level,” and the South Korean Unification Ministry warned Friday of taking countermeasures if Pyongyang does not stop these “irrational” provocations.

South Korea's General Staff said in a message to reporters that North Korea was “once again launching balloons carrying waste toward the south.”

He advised the public not to touch them if they find them, and to report them to the authorities.

The Seoul municipality also sent an alert message to residents on Saturday about the presence of an “unidentified object believed to be North Korean propaganda leaflets.”

The object was “discovered in the airspace near Seoul and is currently being processed by the military,” according to the municipality, which advised residents against “outdoor activities.”

Pyongyang said at the beginning of the week that its balloons, “Sincere Gifts,” were intended to respond to the sending of balloons loaded with propaganda leaflets against leader Kim Jong Un to its territory.

North Korea has long been angered by such actions by South Korean activists, who sometimes also send money, rice or USB sticks of South Korean TV dramas.

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Ruling on Saturday that the North Korean operation was “unimaginably frivolous and despicable,” South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik stressed that those sent from the South were, on the other hand, “humanitarian aid balloons.”

In 2018, during an improvement in their relations, the two neighbors agreed to “completely cease all hostile actions towards each other,” including the distribution of leaflets.

South Korean parliamentarians passed a law in 2020 that criminalizes sending leaflets to the North, but activists did not stop it.

In the same year, Pyongyang, due to the continuation of these activities, unilaterally severed military and political relations with the South and destroyed an inter-Korean liaison office on its side of the border.

Since then, South Korea's Constitutional Court struck down the law in 2023 in the name of freedom of expression.

By launching their balloons, North Koreans are simply exercising their freedom of expression, Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un's sister, one of his regime's main spokesmen, quipped.