North Korea sends at least 600 rubbish-filled balloons into South Korea

Toilet paper and cigarette butts found in balloons landing over Seoul

Military personnel clear the rubbish from balloons sent by North Korea in Incheon, west of Seoul. EPA
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At least 600 rubbish-filled balloons from North Korea landed in the South overnight, officials in Seoul said on Sunday, as Pyongyang responded to leaflets sent across the border by South Korean activists.

About 600 balloons have landed in Seoul and its metropolitan areas, according to South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, with another 300 landing in other regions over the past week.

The contents of the balloons range from cigarette butts and plastic to manure and other rubbish items.

Used toilet paper was found in balloons dropped last week, some of which landed as far south as Gyeongsang province in the south-east of the country.

Images shared by state media showed security officers removing large balloons from various parts of the city.

The presidential office is set to hold an emergency meeting later on Sunday, while South Korea's unification ministry has said “painful” measures will be taken if the situation continues.

It comes as North Korea steps up provocative measures, continuing to jam GPS signals on the border and launching a series of cruise missiles.

The South Korean army said no harmful substances were found in the balloons dropped overnight.

Pyongyang began sending balloons after criticising anti-regime leaflets dropped over North Korea by activists in South Korea, many of whom are said to be defectors from the north.

Activists have been sending balloons to North Korea for more than a decade, while North Korea began sending rubbish-filled balloons to the South in 2016.

About 20 to 50 balloons are landing in Seoul and the surrounding provinces every hour, an army official told The Korea Herald on the condition of anonymity.

The city municipality has opened an emergency centre to respond to the landings, local media has reported.

Kim Kang Il, a vice defence minister, said Pyongyang would drop “mounds of waste paper and filth” on the South in retaliation for “frequent scattering of leaflets and other rubbish” by South Korea near border areas.

South Korea issued a nationwide warning on Tuesday, advising people not to approach the balloons.

Updated: June 02, 2024, 10:07 AM