Parasites and old clothes found in North Korean trash balloons

Parasites from human waste and defaced Hello Kitty clothing have been discovered in bags of rubbish transported by North Korean balloons into South Korea, officials report.

Since May, Pyongyang has released over 1,500 waste-carrying balloons across the border in retaliation for a leaflet campaign against North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Analysis of some balloon packages revealed the presence of "roundworms, whipworms, and threadworms" in the soil.

Despite these findings, South Korea’s Ministry of Unification has assured the public that the risk of infection from these parasites is low.

The balloons also contained slashed "western" clothes donated from the South, featuring characters like Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, and Hello Kitty, according to Reuters. Additionally, socks and heavily patched children’s clothing were found. This waste underscores North Korea's dire economic situation and its adversarial stance against South Korea, a ministry official stated.

The soil was likely contaminated with parasites due to the use of human feces as fertilizer instead of chemicals in North Korea, the ministry added.

North Korea claims the balloons are a response to propaganda sent northward by defectors and South Korean activists, who often send balloons carrying food, medicine, cash, and leaflets critical of the North's regime.

The cross-border propaganda war has intensified recently. As North Korea sent trash southward, South Korea has been broadcasting pop songs and news items over the border using powerful loudspeakers.

On Monday, more balloons were sent across the border, prompting South Korean officials to warn the public about falling objects.

An activist in the South informed AFP news agency that this week he had floated more balloons carrying propaganda leaflets towards the North.

South Korea's military has cautioned the public against touching the white balloons and attached plastic bags, describing them as containing "filthy waste and trash."

The latest wave of balloons began in May, with at least 260 balloons carrying rubbish landing in South Korea, leading authorities to advise residents to stay indoors.

In addition to anti-Pyongyang propaganda, South Korean activists have previously launched balloons carrying cash, banned media content, and even Choco Pies—a South Korean snack banned in the North.

In May, a South Korea-based activist group claimed to have sent 20 balloons carrying anti-Pyongyang leaflets and USB sticks with Korean pop music and videos across the border.


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