For the first time in 11 years, South Korea restarted propaganda broadcasts aimed across the border with foe North Korea in retaliation for what investigators believe was the North Korean planting of landmines. The recently planted landmines exploded, injuring two South Korean soldiers while on a routine patrol of the southern side of the demilitarized zone between the two countries (the DMZ). The message broadcast by the loudspeakers is clear: North Korean leadership is doing a terrible job; human rights are being violated; and the world outside North Korea is a much better place. As North Korea does not take kindly to criticism, it is highly likely it will retaliate, further intensifying tensions between the two Koreas.
The broadcast, which can travel via the loudspeakers about 15 miles at night and about 7 ½ miles during the day, will likely infuriate North Korea. Associate professor of international relations at Yonsei University Lee Jung-hoon stated that, “For [North Korea] Kim Jong Un, as his father and his father’s father was, is not just a political leader, he’s a deity figure. For the leadership, just the fact that there’s the public condemnation and criticism of this godlike figure is totally unacceptable.” He further predicted that, “Absolutely [North Korea] will respond.”
Despite the risks associated with using the loudspeakers, South Korea feels it has no choice given the placement of the landmines. The South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff promised that North Korea would “pay a harsh price proportionate for the provocation it made.”
The investigation conducted by the United States-led United Nations Command in Korea concluded that the wooden box landmines were North Korean and were recently planted, ruling out the possibility that they were old, leftover mines displaced by a nearby river. The landmines were placed on higher ground on a known South Korean border patrol route. As a result of the explosions, one soldier had both legs amputated while another had a foot amputation. South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok told reporters that, “[South Korea] is certain they were North Korean landmines planted with an intention to kill by [its] enemies who sneaked across the military border.”
Some analysts believe that North Korea’s placement of the landmines was in fact a preemptive strike in order to elevate tensions between the two countries prior to a major South Korea-United States military exercise scheduled to begin next week. North Korea has made no secret that it does not want the joint exercise to go forward, claiming that it is a North Korean invasion rehearsal. North Korean officials promised a “tough military counter-action” if the drill went ahead as planned. The drill still remains on schedule.
Presently, 28,000 United States troops are stationed in South Korea.