North Korea Sends More Trash Balloons Over Border as South Warns of Parasites

(Bloomberg) -- North Korea sent a new batch of balloons carrying trash across the border into South Korea after Seoul said it detected parasites such as roundworms in the contents of previous dispatches.

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About 350 balloons were sent from Monday night, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said, and the government advised the public not to touch any content that was carried across. About 100 balloons mainly fell in northern Gyeonggi province, which circles Seoul, and in the capital region, the JCS said Tuesday in a message sent to reporters.

“The contents were mostly paper waste and there have been no safety hazards so far,” it said.

The latest batch of balloons started to fly a few hours after South Korea’s Unification Ministry said an examination on dozens of the more than 1,600 balloons North Korea sent across since late May showed parasites associated with fecal matter being carried along with underwear, neckties and socks that had been cut into pieces.

Tensions have been rising along the heavily militarized Korean border zone in recent weeks. Kim Yo Jong, the outspoken sister of North Korea’s leader, said more balloons may fly toward the neighbor after activists in South Korea floated balloons into North Korea this month.

She also called on South Korea to stop a resumption of broadcasts by loudspeakers at the border pointed north that had been halted under a 2018 agreement between Seoul and Pyongyang, which both governments now say is no longer in force.

South Korea is looking to respond to the latest deployment of trash balloons.

“Our military’s propaganda warfare broadcasts against North Korea are ready to be implemented immediately,” the JCS said. “We will implement them flexibly depending on the strategic and operational situation, and this will depend on North Korea’s actions,” it added.

For decades activists groups in South Korea, many staffed by North Korean defectors who have settled in the country, have floated balloons carrying leaflets denouncing the Kim family that has ruled North Korea since its founding. Batches of balloons have also carried US dollar bills, bags of rice and USB sticks with K-pop music to entice North Koreans to pick up the contents.

North Korea has denounced the defectors as “human scum” and demanded Seoul to stop the balloons. Pyongyang for years has also been sending balloons across the border.

The last major balloon campaign from North Korea before this was in 2016, when it sent propaganda leaflets across the border slamming then President Park Geun-hye as a plaything of former US President Barack Obama and then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Relations on the peninsula saw a realignment this month when Russian President Vladimir Putin made his first trip to North Korea in 24 years and signed a deal with leader Kim Jong Un where the countries would come to each other’s aid if attacked. The pact likely means the US and its allies will have to recalculate what might happen if they use weapons against North Korea.

The US and its allies Japan and South Korea this week condemned in “the strongest possible terms” the deepening military cooperation between Russia and North Korea, calling it a grave concern and a threat to stability. They also saw the visit as advancing the transfer of munitions from Kim’s regime to help Putin in his war on Ukraine.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said North Korea’s sending trash balloons across the border and signing the partnership treaty with Russia were “anachronistic actions that run counter to the progress of history,” according to Yonhap News. The comments were from an address to mark the 74th anniversary of the start of the Korean War.

--With assistance from Seyoon Kim.

(Updates with comments from President Yoon in final paragraph.)

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