Trash balloons are exercise of ‘freedom of expression,’ says N. Korea’s Kim Yo-jong

Posted on : 2024-05-30 17:32 KST Modified on : 2024-05-30 17:32 KST
Kim called the balloons “presents to goblins of liberal democracy” in a statement released through state media
Kim Yo-jong, the vice department director of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea. (KCNA/Yonhap) 
Kim Yo-jong, the vice department director of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea. (KCNA/Yonhap) 

North Korea’s Kim Yo-jong released a statement commenting on large balloons containing waste matter and waste paper, which have been discovered in various locations in South Korea after North Korea began launching them on Tuesday evening. 

In her statement, she said the balloons should be regarded as “‘sincere presents’ to the goblins of liberal democracy who are crying for the ‘guarantee for freedom of expression.’” 

In a statement published by the Korean Central News Agency on Wednesday evening, Kim, whose official title is vice department director of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, said, “As already warned by the DPRK vice minister of National Defence, a large amount of waste paper and rubbish are being scattered in the border and deep areas of the ROK from the night of May 28.” 

She also warned that the North would respond “dozens of times more” to South Korean groups scattering propaganda leaflets in its territory. 

“We make it clear that we will respond to the ROK clans on case-to-case basis by scattering rubbish dozens of times more than those being scattered to us, in the future,” she declared. 

In the statement, Kim said, “The Joint Chiefs of Staff of the ROK puppet army [. . .] urged the DPRK to stop [its launching of balloons] at once, claiming that it is a clear violation of international law [and] an act of seriously threatening the security of ROK people.” 

“We have tried something they have always been doing, but I cannot understand why they are making a fuss as if they were hit by shower of bullets,” she continued. 

“I doubt whether those in the ROK could only see the balloons flying southwards without catching sight of the balloons flying northwards,” she also commented. 

“Are the ‘freedom of expression’ and ‘international law’ defined according to the direction in which balloons fly? It is the height of impudence,” she continued. 

Kim went on to say, “As the leaflet-scattering to the ROK belongs to our people's freedom of expression and provides the people in the ROK with the right to know, there is a limit for the government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to immediately stop it. I courteously seek the ROK government's consent.” 

This was a mocking reference to the Yoon Suk-yeol administration maintaining a hands-off approach to the scattering of leaflets by defector groups — a stance based on a Constitutional Court decision finding punishment of such actions according to the Development of Inter-Korean Relations Act (Articles 24-1-3 and 25-1) to constitute excessive prohibition on freedom of expression. 

On May 13, Park Sang-hak, the leader of the defector group Fighters for a Free North Korea, told the press that his group had sent 20 large balloons carrying 300,000 leaflets to North Korea from Ganghwa Island on the evening of May 10. 

In a press conference the same day as that announcement, Ministry of Unification spokesperson Koo Byoung-sam said the administration was “approaching the issue of scattering leaflets and such in consideration of the gist of the Constitutional Court ruling guaranteeing freedom of expression.” 

North Korea responded critically with a statement on May 26 by its vice minister of national defense, Kim Kang-il, who warned that “[m]ounds of wastepaper and filth will soon be scattered over the border areas and the interior of the ROK.” 

By Lee Je-hun, senior staff writer 

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]  

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