N Korea sends poo balloons to South

North Korea has sent balloons filled with garbage, toilet paper and suspected animal feces across the border into South Korea, according to local media reports.

Seoul has sharply criticized Pyongyang for its “inferior” actions.

Residents who approached the garbage bags said they had a “distinctive smell” that left little to the imagination.

Photos showing white balloons carrying garbage bags full of trash and what appeared to be excrement were widely shared by South Korean media after the North warned over the weekend that it would shower border areas with “mountains of waste paper and dirt” as punishment for Seoul.

Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said that “unidentified objects suspected to be North Korean propaganda leaflets were discovered in the border area between Gyeonggi and Gangwon. The military is taking measures.”

“Citizens should refrain from outdoor activities, avoid contact with unknown objects and report them to the nearest military base or police,” it said in a statement sent to AFP.

It said the North’s actions “clearly violate international law and pose a serious threat to the security of our people.”

“We strongly warn the North to immediately stop its inhumane and substandard actions,” it said.

Late Tuesday evening, Gyeonggi Province sent a text message warning to residents, saying: “Refrain from outdoor activities and report (objects from North Korea) to military bases if discovered.”

South Korean activists sometimes release balloons carrying propaganda leaflets against Kim Jong Un’s regime and money intended for people north of the border.

There has long been anger in Pyongyang over the propaganda campaigns, possibly out of concern that the influx of outside information into the tightly controlled society could pose a threat to the Kim regime.

North Korea recently threatened retaliation.

“Appropriate measures are also being taken against the frequent distribution of leaflets and other garbage by the Republic of Korea (ROK – South Korea’s official name) in border areas,” Vice Defense Minister Kim Kang Il said in a statement on Sunday.

“Mountains of waste paper and dirt will soon be scattered across the border areas and inland of the Republic of Korea, and people will experience first-hand how much effort is required to clear them,” Mr Kim said in a statement carried by Korea’s official Central News Agency.

Since the Korean War of 1950-1953 ended with an armistice, the two Koreas are formally still at war and are separated by a heavily fortified border.

North Korea has sent propaganda balloons across the border before, for example in 2016, but this time the approach is somewhat different, Cheong Seong-chang of the Sejong Institute told AFP.

“Bags full of toilet paper, garbage and Chinese batteries were found,” he said.

“In addition, witness statements indicate that a ‘characteristic smell’ came from the bag. It is likely that they also sent feces, possibly animal droppings,” he added.

“This sends a serious message to South Korea. North Korea can spread propaganda just as much as the South and should stop doing so immediately,” Cheong said, adding that the border would be “strictly controlled afterward.”

North Korea attempted to launch a second spy satellite into orbit on Monday, but the launch ended in a mid-air explosion.

In protest, Seoul had already carried out exercises with fighter jets hours before the attempt after Pyongyang informed Tokyo earlier this week of the upcoming launch window.

North Korean President Kim described Seoul’s reaction as “recklessness,” according to a KCNA report on Wednesday.

Kim said “the current situation requires further strengthening war deterrence in all respects and steadily developing the armed forces of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea into a unit of overwhelming and absolute strength,” the report said.

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