North Korea has dropped over 300,000 propaganda leaflets over South Korea in an unprecedented air drop that also included hundreds of cigarette butts, used toilet paper, and other assorted garbage. As some of the exploding bags of garbage did not detonate, they broke cars, windows, and other targets on their way down.
— UPI.com (@UPI) February 4, 2016
UPI reports that the leaflets referred to President Park Geun-hye as a “filthy president” and the nation of South Korea as “the Republic of Garbage.” While some balloons full of garbage detonated, disseminating the leaflets, a number did not, and caused significant property damage. At least one resident’s car suffered $3,000 in damage after a garbage balloon fell on it; others reported broken windows and water tanks.
The Korean outlet Joongang Daily adds that, in addition to hundreds of cigarette butts, North Korean officials stuffed the balloons with “used toilet paper.” “When we opened up a bundle dropped on the ground, we found plastic bags filled with leaflets mixed with trash… There was concern that North Korea may have sent biochemical substances to harm our people, but after analyzing the content, it was just trash,” one South Korean official, who did not give his or her name, told Joongang.”
A police official confirmed the cigarette butt reports to the New York Times, but not the used toilet paper.
North Korea has been dropping propaganda over the South Korean part of the border since January 13, UPI notes. The leaflets are considered retribution for the continuation of propaganda broadcasts into North Korea from the other side of the border. In mid-January, Seoul announced that it would prepare its loudspeaker systems near the border to broadcast a variety of content into North Korea, from “recordings of casual conversations to discussions about the importance of human rights and the lives of South Korea’s middle class” to popular K-Pop music hits, including rap songs by artists like Big Bang and 2NE1.
“There is a high possibility that North Korea could react in an ultra-harsh manner by regarding South Korea’s decision as ruining the birthday celebration,” a South Korean official noted at the time.
South Korea had ceased these broadcasts in August 2015, but restarted the project following North Korea’s claim that it had detonated an “H-bomb of justice,” defying international sanctions. North Korea is now allegedly working to develop a new long-range missile, though many scientists do not believe North Korea’s claim that its military has the capability of constructing a fusion nuclear weapon.
North Korean officials have told the United Nations it is working to launch an “earth observation satellite” by the Lunar New Year. This has been met with resistance from a number of neighboring countries. Japan’s defense ministry issued an order to destroy the missile should it land within Japanese sovereign territory. South Korea is planning on running an “emergency work system” through the end of the New Year holiday in anticipation of any erratic activity from Pyongyang.
Even the government of China, North Korea’s most prominent ally globally, has warned North Korea against pursuing the missile launch. “We express our serious concern about that,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Wednesday. “We believe that North Korea has the right for the peaceful use of space, but at the moment, the relevant right should be subject for restrictions by U.N. Security Council resolutions,” he added.