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Bizarre psychological warfare using K-pop and trash balloons raises tensions between the 2 Koreas

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Mammoth South Korean loudspeakers blaring BTS music. Large North Korean balloons carrying manure, cigarette butts and waste batteries. Small South Korean civilian leaflets slamming North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Day after day, the Cold War-style yet bizarre campaigns continue at the heavily fortified border of the rivals who haven’t had any serious talks for years.

“At this point, both Koreas are trying to pressure and deter each other with politically symbolic actions,” Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said. “The problem is that neither side wants to be seen as backing down, and tensions at the border could escalate to unintended conflict.”

Here is a look at the latest flare-up of tensions between the two Koreas.

Is the battle of the loudspeakers restarting?

On Sunday, South Korea redeployed its gigantic loudspeakers along the border for the first time in six years and resumed anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts. The broadcasts reportedly included K-pop sensation BTS’s mega-hits like “Butter” and “Dynamite,” weather forecasts and news on Samsung, the biggest South Korean company, as well as outside criticism of the North’s missile program and its crackdown on foreign video.

South Korean officials say the ear-piercing broadcasts were retaliation against North Korea’s recent series of balloon launches that dumped trash into South Korea, though it suffered no major damages. The North says its balloon campaign was a tit-for-tat action against South Korean activists flying political leaflets critical of its leadership across the border.

North Korea views frontline South Korean broadcasts and civilian leafleting campaigns as a grave provocation as it bans access to foreign