North Korea is reinstalling propaganda loudspeakers along the inter-Korean border and preparing to drop 12 million anti-Seoul leaflets here, amid escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula since the North demolished a joint liaison office.
South Korea’s military said the North appears to be setting up loudspeakers “in multiple places” inside the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas. Both Koreas dismantled their propaganda loudspeakers in May 2018 after agreeing to stop all hostile activities, including the distribution of leaflets, in the Panmunjom Declaration signed by President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at their first summit in April of that year.
The South, in response, is reviewing whether to restore its own loudspeakers.
North Korea in recent days has ratcheted up its warnings against the South in retaliation for the actions of defector groups, which have sent hot air balloons across the border carrying leaflets and other materials criticizing the North’s regime and the ruling Kim family.
On Monday, the North said it had printed 12 million flyers to be scattered “deep inside South Korea.”
“Preparations for the largest-ever distribution of leaflets against the enemy are almost complete,” the North’s state media Korea Central News Agency reported. “The time for retaliatory punishment is drawing near.”
The report added that more than 3,000 balloons of various types had also been prepared, along with other means of distribution capable of scattering pamphlets deep inside South Korea, raising speculation that they might be dropped not only along the border but also in Seoul.
The North hasn’t indicated the timing of the dispatch, but observers say it could be soon, as Pyongyang has recently followed through on its threats in a matter of days. Thursday will mark the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950.
The Unification Ministry on Monday urged Pyongyang to withdraw its plans immediately.
“The government is completely blocking (defector groups from) sending anti-North Korea leaflets and materials,” ministry spokesperson Yoh Sang-key said in a regular briefing. “We urge the North to immediately halt plans to send leaflets. That will not help develop inter-Korean relations.”
The South Korean military said it is keeping a close eye on North’s military movements and remains ready to respond to any provocations.
“We are closely monitoring moves by the North Korean military regarding the leafleting round the clock. In preparations for diverse possibilities, we are maintaining a firm readiness posture,” said Kim Jun-rak, spokesperson for the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
He added that if North Korea uses drones to distribute leaflets, the military will be forced to take corresponding military action, as the action would be a violation of the inter-Korean military agreements.
Tensions have heightened on the Korean Peninsula since the North last week blew up the inter-Korean liaison office in its border city Kaesong, which served as a de facto embassy between the two Koreas. It warned of further action, including floating anti-Seoul leaflets and scrapping the 2018 military agreement meant to ease military tensions at the border.
Pyongyang in recent days has released pictures of citizens preparing anti-Seoul leaflets on its state media. The leaflets feature photos of President Moon Jae-in, and are pictured alongside cigarette butts and dirt.
The North on Monday also blamed the South for the poor state of inter-Korean relations, saying that by siding with Washington, Seoul is hurting the “reconciliation and unity” of the Korean people.
It also attacked a South Korea-US working group, designed for the allies to coordinate North Korean policy, saying that by prioritizing its alliance with Washington, Seoul has failed to make a breakthrough in lifting the UN sanctions against the North. It also denounced Seoul for worsening inter-Korean ties by tiptoeing around Washington.
“When the US tells South Korea to play a war game and to purchase advanced weapons, (Seoul) hastily pays astronomical amounts of taxpayers’ money (to the US). And when the (US) banned (Seoul’s plan) of resuming Kaesong industrial park and Kumgangsan tourist area saying it’s too premature, (Seoul) didn’t say a word,” said the state’s mouthpiece Rodong Sinmun.
By Ahn Sung-mi (firstname.lastname@example.org