200 badges featuring late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il found in South Korea: Report

Pictures of former North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung (left) and Kim Jong Il at the main Kim Il Sung square in central Pyongyang, on May 7, 2016.
Pictures of former North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung (left) and Kim Jong Il at the main Kim Il Sung square in central Pyongyang, on May 7, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korean police launched an investigation on Thursday (July 28) after 200 badges featuring the portrait of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il were found at a hotel near the country's main airport, Yonhap news agency reported.

Police found the badges scattered on a flowerbed at the Grand Hyatt near Incheon International Airport and have launched a joint probe with the National Intelligence Service (NIS) into the source of the pins, South Korea's Yonhap said.

Police officials and the NIS both declined to comment on the matter to AFP.

All North Korean adults are required to wear a pin that bears the image of founder Kim Il Sung or his son Kim Jong Il - or both - as a token of their loyalty to the leadership.

In South Korea, wearing or even possessing such a badge would be illegal since praising the North in public is punishable by law with up to seven years in jail.

The badges were found just a day after the South Korean military said it discovered bags of North Korean propaganda leaflets floating down the Han River that flows through Seoul.

The leaflets contained threats to launch missile attacks on the South as well as the usual propaganda messages, the defense ministry told reporters.

It was the first time the North had attempted to float leaflets into the South in such a way. Normally they are tied to helium balloons and launched over the border.

Tensions on the divided Korean Peninsula have been running high since Pyongyang carried out its fourth nuclear test in January, followed by a series of ballistic missile tests.

Last week, the North fired three ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan (East Sea) in an exercise aimed at simulating pre-emptive attacks on South Korean ports and airfields hosting US military "hardware".