Amid pandemic, tensions escalate between North Korea and South Korea

New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaEdited By: Palki SharmaUpdated: Jun 11, 2020, 09:40 PM IST


Story highlights

For years, huge balloons have been floated into North Korea by South Korean activists. These balloons carry leaflets that criticize the North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un.

South Korea once stood out as a shining example of how to contain the coronavirus spread. But with the country easing restrictions, that image seems to be fading away.

Health experts have warned of a second possible coronavirus outbreak in South Korea due to increasing violation of social distancing norms and easing of COVID-19 rules. 

In the last 48 hours, the country also reported 95 new cases and  2 deaths. But that's not the only threat on the Korean peninsula.

Meanwhile, tensions between the two Koreas are on the rise once again.

The trigger this time? Balloons!

For years, huge balloons have been floated into North Korea by South Korean activists. These balloons carry leaflets that criticize the North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un.

But there is no space for dissent in North Korea. This is a well-known fact.

Those who don't toe the line, face the consequences. Defectors are shot down leaders are worshipped.

So even innocent-looking balloons can escalate tensions. North Korea has now cut off all cross-border communication lines with South Korea.

Calling it "the first step of the determination to completely shut down all contact means with South Korea".

North Korea says South Korea has failed to stop activists from floating such anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border.

Today, one of the top South Korean security officials urged defectors to stop sending leaflets and goods to North Korea. 

South Korea's deputy director of the national security council, Kim you-Geun, saying: "The government will begin strictly controlling activities such as leafleting and sending goods to North Korea and respond strictly to violations in accordance with the law. We hope that private organizations would strictly follow relevant domestic laws."

These balloons have been floated for years. So why would they irk North Korea this much all of a sudden? Experts say  North Korea is only trying to signal its frustration.

First, the failed talks with the United States over the crippling sanctions. And now, the coronavirus pandemic which has forced North Korea to shut its border with its biggest trading partner, China.

After the US state department said it was disappointed at North Korea for its decision to suspend communication lines with South Korea.

North Korea fired back, Pyongyang has said the US has no standing to comment on inter-Korean affairs.

Not just that, it issued an open threat. Saying it is in Washington's interest to stay quiet if it wants the upcoming US presidential election to go smoothly.

The North Korean state news agency KCNA quoted Kwon Jong Gun, the director-general for US affairs at North Korea's foreign ministry as saying, "If the US pokes its nose into others’ affairs with careless remarks, far from minding its internal affairs, at a time when its political situation is in the worst-ever confusion, it may encounter an unpleasant thing hard to deal with.”

As per the North Korean official. America should “hold its tongue” and address its domestic problems unless it wants to “experience a hair-raiser”.

What exactly the hair-raiser would be no one knows. Perhaps not even North Korea.

But at this point with tensions ballooning the idea of peace on the Korean peninsula continues to drift away.