North, South Korea Wage War of Trash — and K-pop

Jun 11, 2024

North and South Korea have been at odds since they were formally divided. In 1945, the two countries of the Korean peninsula were split along the 38th Parallel. Since then, they have fought a war of weapons and ideas.

Now, they are waging a battle of trash balloons and K-pop. 

North Korea , for weeks, has been sending balloons filled with waste over its southern border. The country says it is responding to the years of “psychological warfare” that South Korea has waged. South Korea has been known to send cultural and political messages over the border to the north. Those include pro-democracy pamphlets. Recently, the South has broadcast anti-North messages in loudspeakers in border areas.

North Korea is the world’s most insular totalitarian state. It's been ruled by the Kim family since 1945. It is sometimes called the “Hermit Kingdom” because it is largely shut off from the world. South Korea is a democracy. Its citizens elect representatives to govern them.   

A group of North Korean dissidents called the Fighters for Free North Korea (FFNK) recently released balloons that carried propaganda. They are based in South Korea. The balloons dropped 200,000 leaflets criticizing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, as well as 2,000 US $1 bills. They also dropped thumb drives loaded with K-pop music and “Winter Sonata.” That's a popular romance TV series. The idea has been to show their northern neighbors that there is a broader culture in the world. 

In response, they’ve been bombarded with airmailed trash. FFNK accused North Korea of dropping 15 tons of garbage on the South through balloons. The group called it an "insult and embarrassment." 

Reflect: How do you think people can find ways to communicate and understand each other better, even if they come from very different backgrounds or countries?

Photo of a balloon carrying various objects pictured at the sea off Incheon, South Korea, from Reuters.

Based on the details in the story, what happened in response to the balloons sent by the Fighters for Free North Korea? (Common Core RI.5.1; RI.6.1)
a. North Korea sent balloons filled with waste over the border.
b. They were intercepted by South Korean authorities.
c. North Korea broadcast anti-South messages in loudspeakers in border areas.
d. South Korea increased security along the border.
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