July 24, 2024

Seoul, South Korea

South Korean forces fired warning shots on Sunday after North Korean troops accidentally crossed their shared border, Seoul’s military said, as tensions simmer on the Korean Peninsula following a series of tit-for-tat exchanges between the two sides.

In a news briefing Tuesday, the South Korean military appeared to downplay the significance of the gunfire, saying the North Korean soldiers quickly retreated and did not appear to have the intention of invading the southern side, based on information that cannot be made public.

“There were no unusual movements other than the North Korean army immediately moving north after our warning shots,” said Col. Lee Sung-jun, spokesperson for South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. “The South Korean military is closely monitoring the movements of the North Korean military and taking necessary measures.”

The report of the incident comes amid heightened tensions after hundreds of trash-filled balloons launched from the North landed in the South and the government in Seoul resumed loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts across the border.

Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, late Sunday warned the resumption of loudspeaker broadcasts was “a prelude to a very dangerous situation” and that South Korea would be subject to an unspecified “new counteraction” from the North if it continued with the action.

In this photo provided by South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff and released by South Korea Defense Ministry, trash from a balloon presumably sent by North Korea lies on the ground Seoul, South Korea, on June 9, 2024. North Korea flew hundreds of trash-carrying balloons to South Korea again in its third such campaign since late May, the South’s military said, just days after South Korean activists floated their own balloons to scatter propaganda leaflets in the North.

How South Korea is retaliating against North Korea’s trash balloons

The 160-mile demilitarized zone (DMZ) dividing North and South Korea is one of the world’s most heavily armed borders. Lined by high fences and filled with landmines, it is largely empty of human activity.

The incident Sunday marked the first instance of gunfire within the DMZ since 2020, when there was an accidental exchange of shots between the two Koreas, said Lee, the Joint Chiefs spokesperson.

Lee said the North Korean troops headed back across the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) that runs down the center of the DMZ after the warnings. The shots did not cross over the MDL to the North Korean side of the DMZ, he added.

Lee noted that the DMZ area has overgrown forests, and MDL markers are not visible without distinctive paths.

The South Korean military said about 20 North Korean troops were involved but could not determine how many actually crossed the MDL. They did not disclose the number of warning shots fired.


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