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South Korea Condemns North Korea for ‘Base’ Act of Sending Balloons with Trash

On Wednesday, South Korea accused North Korea of sending a large number of balloons across the heavily fortified border between the two countries, which dropped objects including trash and excrement. South Korea condemned the act as base and dangerous.

The South Korean military’s explosives ordnance unit and chemical and biological warfare response team were deployed to inspect and collect the objects. An alert was issued, advising residents to stay away from any suspicious objects and report any sightings to the authorities.

By Wednesday, over 150 balloons had been detected, with some landing on the ground and others still airborne, according to local media reports citing military sources.

This practice of sending balloons is not new. South Korean activists, often led by North Korean defectors, have regularly sent balloons in the opposite direction. These balloons typically carry leaflets critical of Pyongyang, stirring tension between the two neighbors. In some cases, North Korea has reportedly tried to shoot them down.

Photographs released by the South Korean military on Wednesday showed inflated balloons with plastic bags attached. Other images depicted trash scattered around deflated balloons, with one bag labeled “excrement.”

On Sunday, North Korea’s vice defense minister issued a statement promising to exercise “strong power for self-defense” and warned that “mounds of waste-paper and filth” would be sent to the South in response to its flying “dirty things” to the North.

North Korea has frequently reacted angrily to these balloons from South Korean activists, which also carry information about South Korea’s democratic society and even USB sticks with K-pop music videos.

Previous South Korean governments have attempted to stop activists from launching such campaigns, arguing that they do not promote peace and endanger residents near the border. A ban on balloon launches was introduced in 2021 but was later ruled unconstitutional by a top court, which cited a violation of freedom of speech.

The two Koreas’ large militaries remain in a standoff across the military border, with North Korea routinely threatening to annihilate its neighbor.

Peter Ward, a research fellow at the Sejong Institute, noted that sending balloons is far less risky than overt military action. “These kinds of grey zone tactics are more difficult to counter and hold less risk of uncontrollable military escalation, even if they’re horrid for the civilians who are ultimately targeted,” he said.

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