North Korea has been floating balloons over the border with a cargo of propaganda leaflets denouncing the United States as well as South Korean leader Park Geun-hye, calling her “political filth.”
Recently, the leaflets have been accompanied by genuine filth: cigarette butts and used toilet paper.
According to military and police sources Monday, Pyongyang began sending the balloons carrying leaflets starting from Jan. 12 to retaliate for South Korea’s resumption of propaganda broadcasts at the border earlier that week.
The loudspeakers, which blast bouncy K-pop songs and announcements critical of the North Korean regime, were restarted to punish Pyongyang for carrying out a fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6.
After reports from people living near the border, police were dispatched to gather the balloons that failed to explode in midair and had instead fallen in fields and even on cars.
Intelligence officials analyzed the objects packed into the balloons, concerned that they may include hazardous biochemical substances.
“When we opened up a bundle dropped on the ground, we found plastic bags filled with leaflets mixed with trash,” a South Korean military official said. “There was concern that North Korea may have sent biochemical substances to harm our people, but after analyzing the content, it was just trash.”
“In some of the bundles, there were cigarette butts, tissues and daily waste,” a South Korean police official said. “Between the leaflets, there was lots of filth difficult to describe in words.”
This included used toilet paper.
Last month, a balloon equipped with explosives and a timer failed to explode and scatter the leaflets.
Initially, the failure of the explosive was seen as a malfunction, but there is also the possibility that Pyongyang wants the full contents of the payload to be found together.
The earliest propaganda leaflets had messages such as “stop broadcasts against North Korea” and “the United States needs to withdraw its hostile policies against North Korea.”
Leaflets found after Jan. 14 had more direct insults targeting President Park and describing her as “political filth.”
The trash was included with the leaflets criticizing the South Korean president.
“In South Korea, we maintain a level of dignity toward the top leader of a country,” a government official said. “It appears North Korea is conducting psychological warfare by criticizing President Park in an immature manner.”
“There are many instances in the dissemination of leaflets where the timer for the explosion does not go off or is not installed properly so that it doesn’t explode mid-air,” another military official said.
That may well be deliberate. If the explosives did work, the trash would be scattered and not found with the leaflets talking about the South Korean president.
South Korean civic groups pioneered the balloon propaganda campaigns and have sent balloons filled with CDs, U.S. dollars and USB drives containing video clips over the border for years.
North Korea has been sending balloons with propaganda leaflets nearly every day from Imjin River, which flows toward the South.
There have been fewer occurrences of finding trash in the balloons lately.