North Korea is bombarding South Korea with used toilet paper, tissues, and cigarette butts as a part of their propaganda war. Pyongyang has scattered more than one million propaganda messages in an escalating propaganda battle triggered by the North’s latest nuclear test last month.
Helium balloons, each fitted with a timer and a small explosive charge which pops the balloon, and filled with anti-South leaflets are now being mixed with human waste and sent over the border. Most have been recovered near the border in Gyeonggi province, although some have made it as far as Seoul.
Dozens have failed to explode and instead landed in fields, spreading fears they contained biological and chemical weapons. A South Korean military official told the JoongAng Daily.
He said, “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.”
The Telegraph reported that South Korean authorities have more recently been called out to deal with balloons that have not exploded in order to release their propaganda messages.
Another military official told, “When we opened up a bundle that had dropped on the ground, we found plastic bags filled with leaflets and mixed with trash. We were concerned that North Korea could have sent biochemical substances to harm our people, but after analysing the contents it was just trash”.
A South Korean police official said, “In some of the bundles, there were cigarette butts, tissues and daily waste. Between the leaflets, there was lots of filth difficult to describe in words.”
Later, it was revealed to also contain used toilet paper.
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.”
The trash was included with the leaflets criticizing the South Korean president, Park Geun-hye. Some had more direct insults targeting President and describing her as “political filth.”
A government official said, “In South Korea, we maintain a level of dignity toward the top leader of a country. It appears North Korea is conducting psychological warfare by criticising President Park in an immature manner.”
The leaflets, floated across the border by helium balloons, are an apparent response to South Korea’s decision to blast a mix of K-pop and propaganda messages into North Korea using giant banks of speakers on the border.
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 and South Korea are separated by the most heavily armed border in the world, and both have threatened each other with war in the past. Talks between the two countries last year showed signs of tensions beginning to thaw after both sides reached a peace deal. Under the deal, the South had agreed to stop broadcasting anti-Pyongyang messages from loudspeakers near the border.
But the recent nuclear test, which saw North Korean leader Kim Jong-un celebrating the launch of an H—bomb, has renewed tensions and brought the two countries to the verge of war. The test is in direct contravention of the United Nations Security Council resolutions with China under increasing pressure to do its part to rein in its isolated neighbour.
South Korea has warned the United States and its allies that it is working on further sanctions to inflict “bone-numbing pain” on the north after its nuclear foray. It can be a blunt propaganda tool. Last month, an unopened package of nearly 10,000 leaflets slammed into a car, imploding the roof.
Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the Seoul-based University of North Korean Studies, said the leafleting was largely a reactive gesture.
Yang said, “They couldn’t just sit idle while South Korea launches a psychological warfare front.”
As well as the loudspeakers, Seoul is considering installing giant electronic signboards on the border to display messages and videos.
[Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images]