North Korea says COVID-19 entered its country from South Korean leaflet balloons
This was met with confusion by some Western outlets although Korean reunification activists have long sent balloons across to their communist neighbor with anti-regime leaflets, USB sticks, and Bible verses, among other things
July 3, 2022 8:37am
Updated: July 3, 2022 11:50am
North Korea claimed on Friday that its COVID-19 outbreak originated when two people encountered “alien things” carried across its southern border by South Korean balloons.
This was met with confusion by some Western outlets although Korean reunification activists have long sent balloons across to their communist neighbor with anti-regime leaflets, USB sticks, and Bible verses, among other things.
“It was known that an 18-year-old soldier surnamed Kim and a five-year-old kindergartener surnamed Wi contacted with alien things in a hill around barracks and residential quarters in Ipho-ri early in April,” reported state media.
“And they showed the clinic features, to be estimated as early symptom of the epidemic infection, and tested positive for novel coronavirus.”
A Twitter user uploaded a warning poster inside North Korea cautioning readers about balloons, which was originally shared by NKNews.
On North Korea's apparent blame of balloons from South Korea as a viral transmission vector for COVID-19:— Chad O'Carroll (@chadocl) July 1, 2022
Though it may sound far-fetched, the DPRK has been citing risk of infection this way for sometime.
The following is a warning poster inside DPRK which warns re: balloons: pic.twitter.com/oByB8ZWwsg
The regime may also be using fear of COVID-19 infection to dissuade its citizens from approaching balloons from the South.
A spokesman for South Korea’s unification ministry said on Friday there is “no possibility” that COVID-19 entered North Korea on a contaminated leaflet balloon, reports Reuters.
Seeking reconciliation with the north, the last South Korean administration under Moon Jae-in imposed stiff fines and jail terms for sending material north via balloons in Dec. 2020.
Park Sang-hak, the group’s leader and former member of Pyongyang’s elite, said seeing leaflets burst from a South Korean balloon were part of why he chose to defect in 1999.
Since North Korea acknowledged its COVID outbreak, the defector group has been flying medical supplies to help ordinary citizens fight the disease, like face masks, medicine and Vitamin C pills, instead of leaflets, reports The Daily Beast.
The fact Park has been allowed to restart his balloon campaign signals a shift in policy under newly elected President Yoon Suk-yeol, who campaigned on taking a harder line with Pyongyang.