Tensions along the inaptly named “demilitarized zone” on the border between North and South Korea flared up on Thursday, as the two countries exchanged rocket and artillery fire for the first time since 2010. The incident—which caused no injuries—was an escalation in a recent series of incidents along the border. On August 4, the South Korean government accused the North of planting land mines along the border that wounded two South soldiers.
Thursday’s incident also reinforced the uniquely powerful role that propaganda plays in driving the Korean conflict, which has remained unresolved following the 1953 ceasefire that ended the Korean War. Following the land-mine injuries earlier this month, the South revived a dormant practice of broadcasting messages through loudspeakers alongside the border, something it had not done in 11 years. The North retaliated in kind, threatening the South with war.
South Koreans also brought back the years-old practice of releasing balloons into the sky. South Korean activists insert messages written in Korean into the tall, cylindrical tubes, and then release them into North Korean territory. Traditionally, these balloons have only a modest effect on their intended audience—North Koreans tend to be suspicious of propaganda messages delivered by non-government actors. The balloons can also contain objects such as DVDs, USB sticks, and even chocolates—giving the isolated northerners a glimpse into the world beyond their borders.