South Korea Slams North Korea’s Fresh Trash Balloon Launches, Threatens Loudspeaker Broadcasts 

Members of the Kora Peace Action, hold up signs reading "No War, Yes Peace" during a rally against policy toward North Korea while South Korea marks the 74th anniversary of the Korean War in Seoul, South Korea, 25 June 2024. (EPA)
Members of the Kora Peace Action, hold up signs reading "No War, Yes Peace" during a rally against policy toward North Korea while South Korea marks the 74th anniversary of the Korean War in Seoul, South Korea, 25 June 2024. (EPA)
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South Korea Slams North Korea’s Fresh Trash Balloon Launches, Threatens Loudspeaker Broadcasts 

Members of the Kora Peace Action, hold up signs reading "No War, Yes Peace" during a rally against policy toward North Korea while South Korea marks the 74th anniversary of the Korean War in Seoul, South Korea, 25 June 2024. (EPA)
Members of the Kora Peace Action, hold up signs reading "No War, Yes Peace" during a rally against policy toward North Korea while South Korea marks the 74th anniversary of the Korean War in Seoul, South Korea, 25 June 2024. (EPA)

South Korea threatened Tuesday to restart anti-Pyongyang frontline propaganda broadcasts in the latest bout of Cold War-style campaigns between the rivals after North Korea resumed its trash-carrying balloon launches.

On Monday night, North Korea floated huge balloons carrying plastic bags of rubbish across the border in its fifth such campaign since late May — an apparent response to South Korean activists flying political leaflets via balloons.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol called North Korea’s balloon activities “a despicable and irrational provocation.”

In a speech marking the 74th anniversary of the start of the 1950-53 Korean War, Yoon said Tuesday that South Korea will maintain a firm military readiness to overwhelmingly respond to any provocations by North Korea.

South Korea’s military said North Korea floated about 350 balloons in its latest campaign, and about 100 of them eventually landed in South Korean soil, mostly in Seoul and nearby areas. Seoul is about 40-50 kilometers (25-30 miles) away from the border. The military said the trash carried by the North Korean balloons were mostly papers and that no hazardous items were found.

In its earlier balloon launches, North Korea dropped manure, cigarette butts and waste batteries along with cloth scraps and waste papers in various parts of South Korea. No major damage was reported. In response, South Korea redeployed gigantic loudspeakers June 9 along the border for the first time in six years and briefly resumed anti-North Korean propaganda broadcasts.

Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesperson Lee Sung Joon told reporters Tuesday that the South Korean military is ready to turn on its border loudspeakers again. A written Joint Chiefs of Staff statement said officials would examine unspecified strategic operational circumstances and that broadcasts’ resumption would depend on how North Korea acts.

Balloon launches and loudspeaker broadcasts were psychological campaigns that the two Koreas specialized in during the Cold War. The rivals have agreed to halt such activities in recent years, but occasionally resumed them when animosities rekindled.

North Korea is highly sensitive to South Korean border broadcasts and civilian leafletting campaigns as it bans most of its 26 million people official access to foreign news.

South Korean leafleting campaigns by civilian activists, mostly North Korean defectors, include leaflets critical of North Korea’s human rights violations and USB sticks containing South Korean TV dramas, while the past South Korean border broadcasts included K-pop songs, weather forecasts and outside news. In a statement Friday, Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, called them “human scum” and “disgusting defectors.”

South Korean officials maintained they don’t restrict activists from flying leaflets to North Korea in line with a 2023 constitutional court ruling that struck down a law criminalizing such leafleting, calling it a violation of free speech.

Many experts say the North Korean balloon campaign is also likely designed to deepen a debate in South Korea over the civilian leafleting and trigger a broader internal divide.

Worries about North Korea intensified in mid-June, when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a deal requiring each country to provide aid if attacked and vowed to boost other cooperation. Observers say the accord represents the strongest connection between the two countries since the end of the Cold War.

The United States and its partners believe North Korea has been providing Russia with much-needed conventional arms for its war in Ukraine in return for military and economic assistance.

In his Korean War speech, Yoon described the Kim-Putin deal as “anachronistic.” South Korea, the US and Japan issued a joint statement Monday strongly condemning expanding military cooperation between Russia and North Korea.



Internet Hasn't Been Restored in Bangladesh despite Apparent Calm Following Deadly Protests

Bangladeshi soldiers stand guard at the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, amid the anti-quota protests in Dhaka on July 21, 2024. (Photo by Munir UZ ZAMAN / AFP)
Bangladeshi soldiers stand guard at the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, amid the anti-quota protests in Dhaka on July 21, 2024. (Photo by Munir UZ ZAMAN / AFP)
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Internet Hasn't Been Restored in Bangladesh despite Apparent Calm Following Deadly Protests

Bangladeshi soldiers stand guard at the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, amid the anti-quota protests in Dhaka on July 21, 2024. (Photo by Munir UZ ZAMAN / AFP)
Bangladeshi soldiers stand guard at the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, amid the anti-quota protests in Dhaka on July 21, 2024. (Photo by Munir UZ ZAMAN / AFP)

Internet and mobile data services are still down despite apparent calm in Bangladesh following a verdict that scaled back a controversial quota system for government jobs after weeks of relentless protests that turned deadly.
The government has also declared Monday a public holiday, with only essential services running. This comes after a curfew with a shoot-on-sight order was installed days earlier and military personnel could be seen patrolling the capital and other areas, The Associated Press said.
The South Asian country witnessed clashes between the police and mainly student protesters demanding an end to a quota that reserved 30% of government jobs for relatives of veterans who fought in Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971.
The violence has killed more than a hundred people, according to at least four local newspapers. Authorities have not so far shared official figures for deaths. On Thursday, communications were cut off as tensions escalated.
There was no immediate violence reported on Monday morning after the Supreme Court ordered the veterans’ quota to be cut to 5%, with 93% of jobs allocated on merit, the day before. The remaining 2% will be set aside for members of ethnic minorities as well as transgender and disabled people.
On Sunday night, some student protesters urged the government to restore internet services. Hasnat Abdullah, a coordinator of the Anti-Discrimination Student Movement, told the Associated Press that they were withdrawing their calls for a complete shutdown, which they attempted to impose last week.
“But we are issuing an ultimatum for 48 hours to stop the digital crackdown and restore internet connectivity,” he said, adding that security officials deployed at various universities should be withdrawn, student dormitories reopened and steps taken so students can return to their campuses safely. Abdullah also said they wanted the government to end the curfew and ensure the country was back to normal within two days.
Students have also demanded some university officials to step down after failing to protect campuses. Sarjis Alam, another coordinator of the Anti-Discrimination Student Movement, said that they would continue with their protests if all their demands weren't met. “We cannot step back from our movement like a coward,” he added.
Another key organizer of the student protests, Nahid Islam, told reporters that the internet shutdown had disrupted their ability to communicate and alleged that authorities were trying to create divisions among protesters. “I am mentally traumatized ... our unity is being destroyed,” he said.
The US Embassy in the capital Dhaka described Sunday the situation as “extremely volatile” and “unpredictable,” adding that guns, tear gas and other weapons have been used in the vicinity of the embassy. They said the Bangladeshi army had been deployed and urged Americans to be vigilant, avoid large crowds and reconsider travel plans.
The protests have posed the most serious challenge to Bangladesh’s government since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina won a fourth consecutive term in January elections that the main opposition groups boycotted. Universities have been closed, the internet has been shut off and the government has ordered people to stay at home.
Protesters had argued the quota system was discriminatory and benefited supporters of Hasina, whose Awami League party led the independence movement, and wanted it replaced by a merit-based system. Hasina has defended the quota system, saying that veterans deserve the highest respect regardless of political affiliation.
The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party has backed the protests, vowing to organize its own demonstrations as many of its supporters joined the student-led protests.
The Awami League and the BNP have often accused each other of fueling political chaos and violence, most recently ahead of the country’s national election, which was marred by a crackdown on several opposition figures.