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North Korean ‘Trash Balloons’ Target Airports, Authorities Respond

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The collision between an aircraft and North Korean waste balloons could result in a serious accident.

Newsis extensively reported on the potential danger posed by balloons dispersed by North Korea.

According to the report, if a balloon dispersed by North Korea collides with an aircraft, it could cause engine failure or fire, potentially leading to a major aviation accident.

Such an impact could be more detrimental than a bird strike. Several near-miss situations have already occurred.

On the 1st and 2nd, North Korea released waste balloons toward Incheon International Airport, one of which fell within the airport grounds. This incident temporarily halted aircraft operations.

Despite the airport’s radar system, which is based on radio waves, it is difficult to detect balloons.

An airport employee discovered a balloon on the 2nd, leading to the suspension of aircraft takeoffs and landings from runway 1 and 2 from 6:06 a.m. to 6:26 a.m. and again from 7:00 a.m. to 7:17 a.m. Furthermore, five flights had to return to Gimpo Airport.

Newsis quoted a domestic airline official saying, “If 10kg of waste enters an aircraft engine, it could cause FOD (Foreign Object Damage), potentially resulting in engine failure and increasing the likelihood of an emergency landing.”

So Dae Sub, head of the Aviation Security Department at Hanseo University, explained, “Aircraft jet engines generate power from the intake of a significant volume of air. If 10kg of waste is sucked into the engine of an aircraft in flight, the risk of engine failing or a fire breaking out will increase, creating a hazardous situation.”

On the 9th, the Joint Chiefs of Staff announced through a text notice sent to the Ministry of National Defense press corps, “North Korean waste balloons were identified from the 8th to the 9th, and our military is in close cooperation with related agencies to address the situation.” They added, “As of 10 a.m., about 330 waste balloons have been confirmed to have been launched from North Korea.”

On the same day, Defense Minister Shin Won Sik issued a standard order of duty to the entire military.

The Ministry of National Defense elaborated on the unusual issuance of an emergency duty order to the entire military, stating, “Our military views North Korea’s additional waste balloon dispersals very seriously,” and emphasizes, “The urgent requirement for a firm state of readiness and operational preparedness at the Ministry of National Defense level and across the entire military to immediately address North Korea’s waste balloon dispersal and additional provocations.”

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