Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, threatened to pull out of a security agreement between the North and South Korea after a South Korean human rights group deployed leaflet drops in the North.
The South Korean group, Fighters for Free North Korea, dropped anti-regime leaflets from drones and balloons. In comments Kim made in a Thursday address and reported by The Wall Street Journal, she described the leaflet drops as a hostile act and warned South Korean officials they “will be forced to pay a dear price,” if they didn’t stop future attempts to sow anti-regime information.
Kim threatened North Korea would pull out of a 2018 agreement with South Korea in which both sides agreed to ease military tensions. She also suggested an end to a joint industrial park between the two Koreas and an end to the North-South liaison office.
In response to the leaflet drops, Kim also criticized North Korean defectors as “human scum,” “mongrel dogs” and “riff-raff” according to NK News.
NK News noted the 2018 security agreement had banned the use of hot air balloons within 25km of Military Demarcation Line (MDL). The ban did not, however, include specific language against the use of helium balloons.
Within hours of Kim’s Thursday statements. Seoul’s Korean unification ministry issued a statement denouncing the leaflet drops. In its reasoning, the agency said the leaflets had mostly fallen on the South Korean side of the border and had polluted the environment.
“A considerable amount of the distributed leaflets have actually been found in the South, thus polluting the environment and imposing burden on border area residents to collect these wastes. This exacerbates the living conditions of the residents,” the unification ministry statement reads.
The ministry also said the leaflet drops threaten the quarantine conditions between the North and South. North Korea has claimed it has had no cases of coronavirus within its borders, though U.S. experts have shared doubts about those claims.
South Korean officials were also reportedly considering legislation to ban such anti-regime leaflets in the future.
Fighters for Free North Korea most recently dropped their anti-regime leaflets on April 9 and had done so on 11 different occasions last year, according to the leader of the group, Park Sang-hak.
“Is Kim Yo Jong the South Korean Unification minister? Is she the Blue House chief of staff? I have freedom of expression, as a citizen in South Korea’s democracy,” Park said, in response to the proposed leaflet bans. “The purpose is to tell the North Koreans the truth.”