A previously unidentified “flying object” which crossed into South Korea from the North at around 1600 KST yesterday was multiple propaganda balloons sent by Pyongyang to the South, the ROK Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced on Wednesday.
“The unidentified flying objects that have entered and left the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) from 1200 to 2030 KST yesterday were neither drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)…,” Moon Sang-gyun, an MND spokesperson, told local media.
“After detailed analysis, they turned out to be big balloons (sent by the North),” Moon said. “These balloons have moved from west to east following wind direction and disappeared.”
Some of the balloons seem to have successfully scattered their propaganda leaflets in South Korea. According to a Kyunghyang Shinmun report, an ROK military official said that some “scattered leaflets have not been retrieved”.
Yesterday’s announcement by the ROK JCS that “an unidentified projectile” had been detected crossing the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) in Cheorwon area of Gangwon Province set off a storm of speculation, with Seoul’s Yonhap News Agency claiming it was a drone.
The ROK Army responded with a warning broadcast and fired 90 rounds from a K3 machine-gun in the direction of the North, all part of regular procedure against flying objects from the North.
North Korea in the past year has frequently dropped often-graphic leaflets in South Korea, attacking the country’s conservative politicians and the U.S., but this is the first reported case of the propaganda balloons being sent south since the inauguration of the left-leaning Moon Jae-in administration earlier in the month.
Propaganda balloons are not the only flying objects the North has sent to the South. In 2014 Pyongyang sent many crude drones across the MDL, with one retrieved by South Korea showing that it had taken multiple aerial pictures of the Blue House, the presidential office.
The most recent reported case of a North Korean drone near the inter-Korean border happened in January last year. The device retreated to the North after ROK forces fired warning shots.
“North Korean balloons landing now in South Korea is not new,” Pastor Eric Foley, CEO of the Voice of the Martyrs Korea, which frequently sends balloons into the North, told NK News. “The North has been engaged in an extensive balloon/flyer offensive since late last year, sending balloons nearly every week.”
“What is new is the announcement of a North Korean launch by the ROK MND and the firing on such a launch. This marks not a change in strategy by the North, but by the South.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
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