North Korea has once again reverted to the age-old propaganda tactic: pamphlet drops. According to news outlets throughout South Korea, more than 2 million leaflets have been found. Leaflet drops coming from the North haven’t been as common, and the subject matter has historically gone from general images of war, destruction and threatening mayhem, to more personalized propaganda, showing actual individuals grotesquely mutilated or executed.

A somewhat recent pamphlet depicting the decapitation of the previous Prime Minister of South Korea, Hwang Kyo-ahn.

The South Korean government has said that many of the leaflets bear the name of fictitious movements or organizations from within South Korea, in an attempt to make it seem like there are other forces within South Korea friendly to the North Korean cause. They also harp on anti-American themes, like the featured image above showing a representation of U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Mattis.

Some of these leaflets were found on American bases as well, and they have even attempted to distribute CDs with more propaganda. The Eighth Army, garrisoned in South Korea and based in the Yongsan Army Garrison near Seoul, received the bulk of the propaganda attempts.

An image depicting a North Korean missile blasting off past Secretary of Defense Mattis and the dark eagle he is often portrayed with.

WATCH: Activists in South Korea use the same balloon technique to provide leaflets to North Koreans:


Various organizations, many of which are NGOs, have launched much stronger and consistent pamphlet/leaflet campaigns out of South Korea and into the North. This has been much more common than North Korea’s recent attempts. Like the North Koreans, they launch from inflatable, oblong balloons that can travel approximately 125 miles, across the border and into DPRK territory. More recently, there have been reports of South Korean organizations using civilian drones to spread propaganda into the North as well.

The contents of South Korean drops vary, and it largely depends on what time in history you look at them. In the past, it was common that the drops included lighters, tobacco, candy or even pornography. Now they typically stick with media, like leaflets, and goods that might serve to help North Korean civilians, as well as make the South look like the good guys. They also don’t have to stick with leaflets — CDs, USB drives, SD cards — small, but effective means of distributing media that can hold more information than paper, though it also takes more time and effort to view. Many of the drops are religious in nature, citing Biblical passages or proposing that the civilians believe in God instead of state-run entities.

The primary difference between the two campaigns is quite clear: the North seeks to use their propaganda to threaten and intimidate, alienating the United States from the South Korean population and trying to get them to fight alongside the “winning team” of North Korea. South Korean propaganda uses the carrot instead of the stick, hoping to win the undoubtedly tired hearts and minds of North Korean civilians, exposing them to the world outside of the reclusive state’s borders.