The “balloon wars” between the two Koreas have intensified after activists in the South said they had sent balloons carrying anti-North Korean propaganda over the countries’ heavily armed border.

A group of North Korean defectors called the Free North Korea Movement on Thursday said it had sent 10 large balloons filled with 200,000 leaflets critical of the regime of North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, as well as US dollar bills and flash drives loaded with K-pop, according to South Korean media.

Cross-border tensions rose last week after North Korea released almost 1,000 balloons containing rubbish, cigarette butts and what appeared to be excrement in protest at groups in the South that use similar means to spread information critical of the Kim regime and positive messages about life in the South.

North Korea reportedly agreed to a temporary halt in balloon flights after Seoul warned of “unendurable” measures, including the resumption of ear-splitting propaganda and pop music broadcasts via a network of loudspeakers positioned along the demilitarised zone (DMZ) – a strip of land that has divided the peninsula since the end of the 1950-53 Korean war.

Fears are growing that the North could resume its “dirty” campaign in response to the activists’ actions, having warned previously that it was prepared to send “one hundred times the quantity of toilet paper and filth” it had used to target the South, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency

A photograph released by the defectors’ group showed an activist holding up a large poster with photographs of Kim and his influential sister, Kim Yo-jong.

“Enemy of the people Kim Jong-un sent filth and trash to the South Korean people, but we the defectors send truth and love to our fellow North Koreans!” the poster said.

The group revealed earlier this week that it had sent balloons carrying about 2,000 USB flash drives containing songs by South Korean singer Lim Young-woong, as well as other K-pop and K-dramas, into the North on 10 May – a move that reportedly prompted the most recent deluge of rubbish-filled balloons in the opposite direction.

The tit-for-tat balloon campaign has soured bilateral ties and prompted South Korea’s president, Yoon Suk Yeol, to suspend a 2018 agreement aimed at reducing cross-border tensions. The decision means that South could resume live-fire drills, as well as restarting anti-Kim broadcasts near the border.

Resuming the broadcasts would infuriate the North, which has previously threatened to destroy the loudspeakers with artillery unless they were switched off.

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