North Korea Threatens “Very Tough Action” After Air Drills in Seoul

Pyongyang responds to Seoul's propaganda by sending balloons full of garbage and more toward South Korea

Kim Jong-un

Tensions between the two Koreas are escalating after an air force exercise, organized by Seoul near the border with North Korea on the eve of Pyongyang’s failed attempt to put a military satellite into orbit. During a May 28 visit to mark the 60th anniversary of the Academy of Defense Sciences in Pyongyang, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un threatened “tough action” in response to “the show of military force taken by South Korea.” Kim called Seoul’s military maneuvers “a very dangerous provocation” and condemned the behavior of Japan, which was informed of Pyongyang’s intention to try to launch a satellite by June 4.

North Korea’s leader called the space program to launch military satellites “an inevitable choice that guarantees the country’s sovereignty.” On Monday morning, Seoul staged an aerial drill involving more than 20 fighter jets near the border with North Korea, prompting a sharp reaction from the North Korean leader, who said Seoul was “playing with fire in a way we cannot forgive.”

Despite the South Korean government’s decision in 2020 to formally ban the use of balloons to send propaganda materials, leaflets, food, and medicine to North Korea, South Korean activists ignore the ban and continue their actions with increasing intensity. Now the time came for Pyongyang’s revenge. The official North Korean news agency, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), reported that “numerous balloons laden with garbage” were sent into South Korea on Wednesday, May 29, in response to a continuous stream of “dirty propaganda from Seoul.” KCNA defined the action as “mere retaliation against South Korean activists,” and North Korean Deputy Defense Minister Kim Kang-il accused South Korea of using “psychological warfare” measures, scattering “propaganda garbage” in border areas, which would require Pyongyang to respond “according to the law of retaliation.”

As specified by the British radio and television BBC, “260 balloons were sent,” and South Korean authorities appealed to residents of areas near the border with North Korea “not to leave their homes and not to touch the contents of plastic bags attached to the balloons.”