News outlet accidentally sends another fake North Korean missile alert — this is our world now

Japanese broadcaster NHK announced that North Korea had launched an attack. Just as in Hawaii, it was an error

By Shira Tarlo
Published January 16, 2018 12:39PM (EST)
Test launch of North Korean Hwasong-15 missile,  November 30, 2017 (Getty/KCNA via KNS)
Test launch of North Korean Hwasong-15 missile, November 30, 2017 (Getty/KCNA via KNS)

Japanese broadcaster NHK sent out a false missile alert on Tuesday, announcing that North Korea had launched an attack and urging people to take shelter. The alert went out through the broadcaster’s Japanese apps and website at 6:55 p.m.

“North Korea likely to have launched a missile. The government’s J-Alert: evacuate inside the building or underground,” warned the news flash.

NHK corrected itself five minutes later, saying the alert had been sent by mistake due to a "switching error."

NHK’s error comes just days after tourists and residents of Hawaii received a similarly false alert on Saturday morning.

At 8:07 a.m., the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency mistakenly sent out an all-caps push alert: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”

The notice turned out to be a false alarm, but the mishap in Hawaii caused widespread panic. For 38 minutes, people in Hawaii waited for a ballistic missile that never came.

Ben DuPree, a political strategist, spent the morning hunkering in a bathtub in Kailua, Hawaii, fearing an incoming missile from North Korea. Jonathan Dworkin, an infectious diseases doctor, took shelter in his basement. Others sent texts and called family members to say "I love you" and goodbye.

NHK’s rapid correction of its error sharply contrasts with the nearly 40 minutes it took Hawaiian authorities to issue a cancellation of the alert. It took another five hours for Hawaii’s governor, David Y. Ige, to apologize for the mistake.

"Today is a day most of us will never forget," Ige said in a statement. "A terrifying day when our worst nightmares appeared to become a reality. A day where we frantically grabbed what we could, tried to figure out how and where to shelter and protect ourselves . . . said our 'I love yous,’ and prayed for peace."

Shira Tarlo

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