Hello Kitty and parasites: A look inside North Korea's trash balloons, says South Korea

North Korea has flown balloons carrying trash since late May, with hundreds landing in South Korea

Reuters June 24, 2024
A balloon carrying various objects including what appeared to be trash, believed to have been sent by North Korea, is pictured at the sea off Incheon, South Korea, June 9, 2024. PHOTO: REUTERS


Among the trash that balloons carried over the border from North were articles printed with Hello Kitty characters, badly worn clothing, and soil containing traces of human faeces and parasites, South Korea said on Monday.

North Korea has flown balloons carrying trash since late May, with hundreds landing in South Korea. South Korea deployed military explosives units and chemical and biological warfare teams to inspect the objects.

The items also included clothes that had been donated from the South that were slashed and cut up, and general trash that appeared to be hastily collected, the South's Unification Ministry, which handles the North, said in a report.

North Korea has said the balloons were retaliation for a propaganda campaign by North Korean defectors and activists in the South who regularly send over balloons carrying food, medicine, money and leaflets criticising the North's leaders.

Read also: South Korea to suspend military pact with North over trash balloons

Parasites and human DNA were found in the dirt in some of the plastic bags, which shows it contained fertilizer that used human faeces, the ministry unification ministry said.

North Korea, which suffers a chronic food shortage, depended on South Korea for massive shipments of chemical fertilizer until such aid was suspended in 2007 as Pyongyang accelerated weapons development.

The trash contained worn items of clothing with Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh and Hello Kitty characters as well as socks, gloves and children's clothes that had been heavily patched up, masks with fabric stitched by hand and two layers of shirts sewn together.

Late on Monday, South Korea's military said the North has launched balloons that appeared to carry trash. North Korea last week warned it would send more balloons carrying trash.


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