North Korea sends more rubbish balloons to South after Kim sister’s threat

Kim Yo Jong had warned of a ‘crisis of confrontation’ if South Korea did not halt propaganda broadcasts.

North Korea has floated more than 1,000 rubbish-carrying balloons into the South in recent weeks [Yonhap via Reuters]

North Korea has floated hundreds more refuse-carrying balloons into South Korea after Kim Jong Un’s influential sister warned Seoul to halt propaganda broadcasts across their tense border.

Pyongyang sent more than 300 waste-loaded balloons across the inter-Korean border overnight, South Korea’s military said on Monday, after Kim Yo Jong warned earlier that the loudspeaker broadcasts risked provoking a “crisis of confrontation”.

“This is a prelude to a very dangerous situation,” Kim said in a statement carried by state media on Sunday.

The latest balloons carried only scrap paper and plastic, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said, unlike previous batches that carried unsanitary material such as manure, toilet paper and cigarette butts.

Military officials said they did not detect any balloons floating in the air as of 8:30am.

South Korea resumed loudspeaker broadcasts hours earlier in response to the North sending more than 1,000 rubbish-carrying balloons in recent weeks.

The broadcasts have in the past included international news and K-pop, both of which are restricted by the Kim regime.

Seoul halted the broadcasts in 2018 during a period of inter-Korean rapprochement initiated by former President Moon Jae-in, the predecessor of the conservative incumbent, Yoon Seok-yeol.

Pyongyang has said it began the balloon campaign in retaliation for South Korean activists sending anti-North Korean leaflets and USB sticks filled with South Korean music and dramas across the border.

“Seoul does not want military tension at the inter-Korean border, and Pyongyang does not want outside information threatening the legitimacy of the Kim regime,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

“For both sides, ‘escalating to deescalate’ is a risky proposition. North Korea may have already miscalculated, as South Korea’s democracy cannot simply turn off NGO balloon launches the way an autocracy would expect. Pyongyang is used to employing asymmetric tactics to its advantage, but in today’s information space, it is outgunned by messages of freedom, economic success, and K-pop.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies