South Korea Says It Found Parasites in Trash Balloons

South Korea Says It Found Parasites in Trash Balloons

( – North and South Korea have traded barbs in a war of words since signing an armistice that ceased armed conflict in July 1953, more than 70 years ago. The armistice never brought peace between the countries. Occasionally, hostilities take an inane turn, like using balloons to drop “trash” on the neighboring country.

In response to 20 South Korean balloons launched into North Korea carrying 300,000 pamphlets, an unspecified number of US one-dollar bills, and 5000 USB flash drives containing popular TV dramas and K-pop songs, Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, threatened retaliation on Friday, June 21.

Since May, North Korea has reportedly sent more than 1,000 balloons to the south containing various types of refuse, including human and animal wastes and soils containing parasites like whipworms, pinworms, roundworms, and threadworms. Some packets have also contained cigarette butts, industrial waste, and scrap material.

South Korean activists decided to strike back by sending pamphlets, music, and US money to North Koreans via balloons. Kim Jong-un and his government have tightly controlled the country’s information and entertainment flow and outlawed the shows and music sent on balloon-dropped flash drives.

The South Korean Unification Ministry identified the parasites but noted that their presence and many of the items in the trash balloons indicated the dire level of struggle the North Korean citizens were facing. It explained that the parasites typically resulted from using human excrement as fertilizer in impoverished countries.

In 2017, North Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) guards reportedly shot a soldier defecting from North Korea to the south. While treating his wounds, doctors also struggled to treat multiple parasitic infections that complicated his condition. Other South Korean doctors described their experiences treating parasitic infections of those who escaped their northern neighbor.

The balloons contained parasite levels too low to infect anyone who came into casual contact with them or their contents, according to the ministry.

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