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North Korea Warns of Retaliation with “Shower of Shells” for Anti-Pyongyang Leaflets

North Korea has criticized South Korea for removing a law that banned private activists from sending anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets to the North. The North Korean government insists that such activities amount to psychological warfare and has threatened to respond with a “shower of shells.” This statement comes after South Korea’s Constitutional Court invalidated a 2020 law that criminalized leafletting, citing concerns over freedom of speech. The ruling was in response to a complaint filed by North Korean defector-activists in South Korea who have been conducting leaflet campaigns across the border.

North Korea is highly sensitive about any attempts to undermine the leadership of Kim Jong Un and tightly controls the flow of information within the country. The previous liberal government in Seoul had passed the law to pursue inter-Korean engagement but tensions have escalated since then, with North Korea blowing up an inter-Korean liaison office in 2020.

Tensions between the Koreas have reached a high point as both Kim’s weapons tests and joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States have intensified. North Korea’s state media, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), warned that leafletting campaigns could be seen as high-level psychological warfare and even a pre-emptive attack. The KCNA also claimed that future leafletting could trigger an unprecedented military response from North Korea.

North Korea has a history of making threats that are not carried out, but the animosity between the rival Koreas remains. In the past, North Korea has blamed its COVID-19 outbreak on balloons flown from South Korea, and there have been instances of cross-border firing in response to the leaflet campaigns. South Korean defectors often use large helium-filled balloons to launch leaflets criticizing Kim’s leadership, nuclear weapons ambitions, and human rights record.

Despite the threats, the freeze in diplomacy between North and South Korea continues, with no signs of an immediate resolution.

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