Tensions between the 2 Koreas were raised by the use of K-pop and trash balloons

The Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Mammoth South Korean loudspeakers blaring BTS music.
Large North Korean balloons carrying manure, cigarette butts and waste batteries.
Small South Korean civilian leaflets slamming North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
North Korean broadcasts in the past revolved mainly around praising its system and harsh censuring of South Korea.
They said past North Korean broadcasts from its loudspeakers were not clearly audible in South Korean areas.
North Korea was more tolerant of South Korean pop culture when ties warmed in the past.
Diplomacy between the two countries remains derailed since a broader U.S.-North Korea nuclear diplomacy collapsed in 2019.
South Korean military said it’s ready to launch immediate, strong retaliation if attacked.


Gigantic South Korean speakers blasting BTS tunes in SEOUL, South Korea (AP). Massive balloons from North Korea filled with waste batteries, cigarette butts, and manure. Little pamphlets addressed to civilians in South Korea criticizing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

At the highly fortified border of the rivals who haven’t had any meaningful negotiations in years, the bizarre, Cold War-style campaigns go on day after day.

Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Seoul’s Ewha University, stated that “both Koreas are trying to pressure and deter each other with politically symbolic actions at this point.”. The issue is that tensions at the border run the risk of escalating into unintentional conflict because neither side wants to be perceived as giving in. “.

This is a look at the most recent escalation in hostilities between the two Koreas.

Is the war of the loudspeakers about to resume?

For the first time in six years, South Korea moved its massive loudspeakers closer to the border on Sunday and started airing propaganda against Pyongyang. Megahits from K-pop sensation BTS, including “Butter” and “Dynamite,” weather predictions, news about Samsung, the largest South Korean company, and external criticism of the North’s missile program and its censorship of foreign video were all allegedly included in the broadcasts.

Although South Korea did not sustain any significant harm, officials there claim that the ear-piercing broadcasts were a form of reprisal for North Korea’s recent series of balloon launches that released trash into their country. According to the North, its balloon campaign was a tit-for-tat retaliation against South Korean activists who were slinging political flyers that were critical of its leadership across the border.

Since most of its 26 million citizens are denied access to foreign news, North Korea sees civilian leafleting campaigns and frontline South Korean broadcasts as grave provocation.

South Korean officials claim that although North Korea has reinstalled its own propaganda loudspeakers close to the border, it hasn’t turned them on as of Tuesday morning. In the past, the main topics of North Korean broadcasts were harsh criticism of South Korea and extols of their system.

Among the psychological warfare that the two Koreas decided to stop in 2018 were balloon launches and loudspeaker broadcasts. North Korea erected signboards that said, “Let’s Establish a Confederate Nation!” while South Korea employed enormous electronic billboards that were evocative of the “Hollywood” sign near Los Angeles during the Cold War.

Who has superior loudspeakers?

Officials from South Korea have previously stated that during the day, broadcasts from their loudspeakers can travel up to 10 kilometers (6 miles) and at night, up to 24 kilometers (15 miles). They claimed that previous broadcasts from North Korea’s loudspeakers were inaudibly audible in parts of South Korea.

Following their defection to South Korea, a few front-line North Korean soldiers testified that they had cherished South Korean broadcasts, which featured pop songs and precise weather forecasts alerting them to impending rain and advising them to gather up laundry hung outdoors on clotheslines.

According to South Korean officials, North Korea fired artillery rounds across the border in 2015, the same year that South Korea resumed loudspeaker broadcasts for the first time in eleven years. This prompted the South to respond with fire. There were no casualties reported.

Are K-pop songs able to gain traction in North Korea?

As South Korean pop culture, including K-pop and other products like TV dramas and movies, continues to gain popularity among the general public, experts and defectors say it has become a challenge to the North’s leadership.

Since the pandemic, Kim has stepped up his efforts to eradicate South Korean pop culture and language influence from his people in an effort to solidify his family’s dynastic rule.

2016 saw songs by a young female singer named IU appear on the playlists of South Korean loudspeaker broadcasts. It was thought that her calming voice was intended to demoralize male front-line North Korean soldiers.

In the past, as relations improved, North Korea was more accepting of South Korean pop culture. Some of the biggest pop stars from the South were allowed to visit North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, for a rare performance in 2018 during a brief period of rapprochement.

The North Korean audience appeared to like crooners’ classic ballads, according to South Korean TV footage, but they weren’t as into Red Velvet, a K-pop girl group well-known for their seductive choreography and playful, high-pitched vocals. Celebrating the concert as a “gift to Pyongyang citizens,” Kim reportedly applauded it. “.

Is it possible for there to be a war?

Given that both Koreas have already stated that they are no longer subject to the historic 2018 agreements that reduced tension, there are worries that the psychological warfare tactics of the past are raising the possibility of direct military confrontations between them.

Since a more expansive U.S. S. -The nuclear diplomacy with North Korea broke down in 2019. So, it might be challenging for the rivals to arrange negotiations as a way to break the pattern of tit-for-tat hostilities.

South Korea “has more to lose in the event of a physical clash, but it also has clear advantages in terms of information operations and conventional military capabilities,” the professor Easley stated. “The Kim regime may overestimate its capacity for coercion due to its self-proclaimed nuclear status, even though it is susceptible to outside information. “.

Wang Son-taek, a professor at Seoul’s Sogang University, suggested in a recent newspaper column that North Korea might respond in a way that would prevent it from launching a direct counterattack by using so-called “gray zone” tactics if its involvement isn’t quickly confirmed.

On Sunday, there were reportedly two hours of loudspeaker broadcasts in South Korea. On Monday and Tuesday, the nation did not turn on its speakers again. If attacked, the South Korean military has declared that it is prepared to strike back quickly and forcefully.

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