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10/06/24 | 10:56 pm

North Korea sends 300 more trash balloons south as row over loudspeaker broadcast intensities

North Korea floated over 300 more waste-loaded balloons into South Korea, as tensions between the two countries continue to mount. This comes after Kim Jong Un’s influential sister, Kim Yo Jong, warned Seoul to halt propaganda broadcasts across their tense border. She warned 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 8:30 am (local time).

Loudspeaker broadcasts were resumed by South Korea hours earlier in response to the North sending more than 1,000 rubbish-carrying balloons in recent weeks, Al Jazeera reported.

In the past, the broadcasts have 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 said it started 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, as reported by Al Jazeera.

“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.”

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