South Korea Just Received a Barrage of Balloons Filled With Trash and Poop. The Suspect: North Korea

Recently, North Korea complained about South Korea's propaganda against its regime and warned that it would take action.

Garbage and excrement balloons are raining down on South Korea. The suspect? North Korea
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There was something strange in South Korean skies this week. It wasn't a bird, a plane, or even a drone. In fact, when looking up at the sky, many South Koreans saw helium balloons. Not just one, but hundreds of balloons armed with plastic bags tied with strings that, according to South Korea, came from Kim Jong-un’s North Korea. The scene was striking enough, but the surprise came when South Koreans opened the bags: They were full of trash. And poop.

The image is crazy but not particularly funny: The poop balloons have provoked yet another conflict between North Korea and South Korea.

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s... A bunch of balloons with bags floating over South Korea. Hundreds. The Guardian reports around 150, but Reuters claims there were more than 260. Many landed on the ground after flying over South Koreans. Almost all provinces have reported the sightings, and some balloons have even reached Gyeongsang in the southern region of the peninsula. In Seoul, the South Korean capital, they have no doubt where the balloons came from: North Korea.

Sam Kim on X Click on the image to go to the tweet.

What’s in the bags? It’s not often that you see a parade of 260 balloons flying over a country. But in this case, that’s not the strangest thing. The big surprise came when the balloons started landing in the fields and streets of South Korea, and the locals decided to open them. Inside, they found an array of garbage, including used plastic bottles, batteries, and old shoes, but also manure and, in some cases, animal poop.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and the Yonhap news agency reported these findings. There's need to imagine it: Authorities and individuals have shared several photos of the balloons, and their contents spilled on the asphalt. One bag even had “excrement” written on it.

Raphael Rashid on X Click on the image to go to the tweet.

A bad joke? It didn’t seem that way to South Korean authorities. As explained by Reuters, the mysterious balloons with bags mobilized the army’s explosives unit and a chemical and biological threat response team to inspect and collect the bags. The authorities also warned the population and gave them strict instructions: first, to report any balloon sighting; second, not get close and, of course, not touch any of the white balloons.

The BBC says that on Tuesday, people in northern Seoul and the border region got messages from the government asking them not to carry out outdoor activities. Photos released by the South Korean military over the past few hours on social media show what appear to be garbage bags filled with dirt and paper.

Jim Roberts on X Click on the image to go to the tweet.

But who sent the balloons? In Seoul, there’s little doubt. People look to the north, which they've already blamed for sending the balloons. An official of the presidential office didn’t hesitate to talk to Reuters about “psychological warfare.” Yonhap also published statements from the JCS warning of the seriousness of the incident and pointing the finger at North Korea.

“These acts by North Korea clearly violate international law and seriously threaten our people’s safety.”  As such, the South Korean authority has already warned the North’s government to “immediately stop” what it considers “inhumane and vulgar acts.”

Raphael Radish on X Click on the image to go to the tweet.

The story behind the balloons. Here’s some context to better understand what happened in South Korea. First, the use of balloons isn’t new. Both countries have been using them in their propaganda campaigns since the 1950s. Secondly, the episode comes just days after North Korea complained that the South’s activists “frequently” distribute “leaflets and other trash” at the border, alluding to anti-North Korean pamphlets.

Last Sunday, North Korea’s vice defense minister Kim Kang Il even warned that the deployment of balloons over South Korea is almost a statement of intent: “Mounds of wastepaper and filth will soon be scattered over the border areas and the interior of the [Republic of Korea], and it will directly experience how much effort is required to remove them.”

Is this the first time something like this has happened? No. And you don’t have to go far back to find other examples. In 2018, the two Koreas were immersed in a peculiar “balloon war,” with helium devices traveling back and forth across the border with propaganda leaflets. In addition to sending pamphlets criticizing Kim's regime, South Korean activists have also sent USB sticks containing documents banned in the North.

They also sent surgical masks, painkillers, and vitamins during the pandemic. Some people even throw plastic bottles into the Yellow Sea, hoping they will reach the shore on the other side of the border. In 2020, South Korean authorities passed a law criminalizing the dissemination of pamphlets against the Kim regime. However, the government eventually repealed the law.

Image |  Ryan Chan (Flickr)

Related | Kim Jong Un’s ‘Friendly Father’ Song Goes Viral on TikTok. South Korea Has Already Banned It

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