North Korea claims Covid-19 could float into country by balloons from the South

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<p>North Korea leader Kim Jong Un at a party conference last month</p> (AP)

North Korea leader Kim Jong Un at a party conference last month

(AP)

North Korea has asked its citizens to not read propaganda leaflets sent through balloons from the South claiming that Covid-19 could enter into the country via the drops.

According to the Yonhap news agency, the state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper urged people to stay away from the leaflets and asked them to “think and move” inline with the Covid-19 guidelines. Since the start of the pandemic, North Korea has not reported any cases of Covid-19.

It said: “Even when we come across a strange object flying in the wind, we must consider them as a possible route of transmission of the malicious virus rather than a natural phenomenon.”

The issue of propaganda leaflets and balloons flown from South Korea has been a long-running issue, with Kim Jong Un led North Korea terming it a step of provocation and even threatening to retaliate over the tactic.

On Thursday, the South Korean police conducted a raid at the office of Park Sang-hak, an activist and a well-known North Korean defector, who said he had floated hundreds of thousands of propaganda leaflets toward North Korea by balloon.

He floated the balloons despite a new contentious new law that bans flying leaflets, USB drives or money into North Korea. Breaking the new law could land perpetrators with up to three years in prison. The activist is the first person to be investigated since the new law came into effect in March.

According to the Seoul Metropolitan Police, the raid on the Seoul office of the activist was related to his announcement that his group launched balloons carrying 500,000 leaflets, 5,000 one-dollar bills and 500 booklets about South Korea’s economic development across the border last week. But the police refused to share any more details.

However, the activist is defiant and after the raid said that he would continue launching balloons.

AP
AP

He said: “Even if we get three years in prison or even 30 years in prison ... we’ll continue to send anti-North leaflets to let our ragged, starving compatriots in North Korea know the truth” about their authoritarian government.

Following the balloons being sent across the border, on Sunday, Kim Yo Jong, the sister of Kim Jong Un, said North Korean defectors in South Korea recently “scattered leaflets against” the North.

She called their action “an intolerable provocation” and said her government would look into corresponding measures.

Her statement is a cause of concern for authorities in the South; last year North Korea blew-up an empty inter-Korean liaison office on its territory after she reacted furiously over similar propaganda leaflets sent into North Korea.

Additional reporting by agencies

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