Seoul, South Korea — Authorities in North Korea have instructed its people to avoid “stranger things” falling near its border with South Korea.
North Korean state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun published a news report on where the COVID-19 virus came from and pointed the finger at materials flown in from South Korea. The newspaper said two local townspeople showed COVID-19 symptoms after touching “alien things” at the border.
“The State Epidemic Prevention Headquarters has made sure to issue an emergency directive emphasizing the need to be vigilant about foreign things coming into the areas along the demarcation line and borders by wind and other climatic phenomena and balloons,” said Rodong Sinmun on Friday.
The influx of non-native objects, particularly from the southern half of the Korean peninsula, has put North Korea’s border on the highest alert level for the longest time since the two Koreas split in 1953. Sending propaganda leaflets and materials in the air Balloons are common practice on both sides, but Seoul outlawed them in 2020.
“It appears to be an attempt to raise suspicion among North Korean citizens about the propaganda leaflets, an attempt to spread the misconception that the leaflets carry COVID-19,” said Hyung Joong Park, senior researcher at the Korea Institute of National Unification. said ABC News.
Park also explained that they form the narrative that COVID was not caused by party failure, but by a deliberate outside step.
North Korea reported over 4,750 cases of “fever” on Friday and claims more than 99.827% of people who had “fever” have recovered since the pandemic began Thursday night. North Korea has extremely limited numbers of COVID testing kits as the regime has refused to accept foreign help to identify patients.
Responding to North Korea’s accusation that it sees no possibility of viruses reaching North Korea through leaflets from the South, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said the timing of the North’s claims of contact with “alien material” in early April does not coincide with that The timing of the leaflet distribution, which activists in South Korea say, was at the end of April.
“South Korea’s Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization agree that it is impossible to contract COVID-19 from the virus that remains on the surface of an object, not to mention there is no officially confirmed case of the COVID-19 infection via mail or other deliveries,” Cha Duck Chul, the deputy spokesman for South’s Unification Ministry, told reporters on Friday.
On Tuesday, Seoul-based defector group Fighters For North Korea claims to have flown 20 unauthorized balloons carrying masks, painkillers and doses of vitamin C to support pandemic-hit North Korea.
“The accusation of the balloon and leaflets from South Korea for spreading the virus lays the groundwork for North Korea to take extreme measures against balloon launches on the grounds that it is a national security threat,” said John Delury, a professor at the Yonsei University Graduate School of International Studies Abc News.
ABC News’ Eunseo Nam and Hyerim Lee contributed to this report.