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Seoul littered with trash dropped by North Korean balloons

On eve of Korean War anniversary, Pyongyang floats about 350 trash balloons to Seoul metro region

June 25, 2024 - 16:39 By Kim Arin
South Korean authorities collect trash dropped by North Korean balloons in the streets of Gangseo-gu, a southwestern district in Seoul, on Tuesday. (South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff)

North Korea floated balloons filled with trash toward the South for the fifth time late Monday, on the eve of the anniversary of the start of the Korean War, which was June 25, 1950.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said that as of Tuesday morning more than 350 trash balloons from North Korea had been identified, the majority of which fell in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province surrounding the capital city.

So far, this latest batch of balloons appeared to contain mostly waste paper that was deemed not to pose a hazard to public health or safety, the JCS said.

South Korea may resume its propaganda broadcasts from loudspeakers along the shared border as a response, according to the JCS.

President Yoon Suk Yeol in his remarks delivered at an event commemorating the 74th anniversary of the Korean War in Daegu, Tuesday, chastised North Korea for launching trash balloons as “despicable and irrational.”

“Despite repeated warnings from the international community, North Korea has continued to upgrade its nuclear and missile capabilities, constantly planning provocations,” he said.

“North Korea has recently resorted to despicable and irrational provocations, like the release of trash balloons.”

He went on, “North Korea is the only place on Earth that remains frozen in time, stubbornly pursuing a path of regression. The North Korean regime is preoccupied with its own security while turning a blind eye to the horrific lives of its people.”

In his remarks, Yoon also called the partnership between North Korea and Russia “an anachronistic move that goes against the progress of history” and “a direct violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.”

South Korean authorities in protective gear collect North Korean trash fallen on the streets in Seongbuk, a mid-north district in Seoul, on Tuesday. (South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff)

The arrival of the balloons on Monday followed a warning from Kim Yo-jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister.

Referring to anti-Pyongyang flyers sent over the border by South Korean activists, Kim said in a statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency on Friday: “You can go ahead and assume we will be taking action after they did something we clearly told them not to do.”

A group of South Korean activists called Fighters for Free North Korea on Thursday floated near the border giant balloons carrying propaganda flyers, dollar bills and USB drives containing K-pop and other South Korean cultural content.

The balloon action prompted Gyeonggi Province, which borders North Korea, to file a complaint with police concerning the activist group the next day.

Gyeonggi Province Gov. Kim Dong-yeon, of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea, said earlier this month that the provincial office would increase police patrols to deter flyers and other things from being sent across the border.

Preliminary analyses by the South Korean government detected several kinds of parasites within the North Korean balloons.

According to the results of these analyses released Monday by the Ministry of Unification, which oversees inter-Korean affairs, “a large number of parasites were seen in the soil contained in the balloons.”

On Monday, a delegation of three Democratic Party lawmakers -- Reps. Wi Sung-lac, Kim Byung-joo and Chung Dong-young -- left for Washington to meet with members of the US Congress to discuss North Korean provocations and other security issues affecting the Korean Peninsula.

Ahead of their US trip, the lawmakers characterized the North Korean balloon launches as a result of the Yoon administration’s hawkish North Korea policies.