Recently Hawaiian residents suffered a false emergency Alert saying a ballistic missile was inbound from North Korea, leading to panic for 38 minutes until everyone found out it was sent in error. It turns out they are not alone, as the Japanese national broadcaster NHK erroneously sent out a similar alert on its J-alert system to warn citizens of yet another non-existent missile launched against that country. The broadcaster was then forced to apologize for the message sent on January 16.

North Korea missile alert sent out in Japan

The J-alert smartphone app is used to warn the public in Japan about earthquakes, possible tsunamis, and erupting volcanoes, but is also in place in case of other potential disasters or attacks.

NHK accidentally sent out the alert message using the J-alert system on Tuesday, no doubt terrifying their Japanese subscribers. The message was headed “NHK news alert,” and went on to state that North Korea had likely launched a ballistic missile and that the government was warning the public to stay inside buildings or go underground.

Unlike Hawaii, in the case of the Japanese alert, NHK rectified the error within five minutes, sending out a further message to tell subscribers the news alert had been sent by mistake and that the government had sent out no such warning.

However, reportedly no explanation for the mistake was given.

Meanwhile as reported by Reuters, the Japanese government has on Wednesday called on NHK to ensure the error will not be repeated, as tensions are already high over the North Korea nuclear and missile programs. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Sugar stressed at a news conference that the J-alert system is vital for maintaining the safety and security of the Japanese people, saying they had asked the broadcaster to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.

False alert on same day as talks about North Korea begin

Ironically the false alert was sent out on the same day that the U.S. and Canada started talks in Vancouver relating to the ongoing Korean crisis. Reportedly Japan and South Korea will be taking apart in the talks. However, as noted by the International Business Times, China will not be present at the talks, as they are the largest trading partner with Pyongyang.

The talks will be focusing on possibilities of launching sanctions against North Korea, along with that country’s participation in the Winter Olympics to be held in South Korea next month.

Hawaii false emergency alert

Fortunately, the latest false alert was not as widespread – or long-lived – as that experienced in Hawaii on Saturday, as it only affected certain subscribers and was swiftly corrected.

However, residents and tourists in Hawaii were in a state of panic on Saturday after receiving an emergency alert sent out to cellphones warning of an imminent missile threat to the islands. That warning told residents to immediately seek shelter and that it was “not a drill.”

In that case, it turned out authorities were testing the emergency alert system and the employee concerned has now been “reassigned.” However, for 38 minutes, residents and tourists were in a state of panic believing a missile was indeed on its way.

Meanwhile, the video below gives a few tips on what to do if a real emergency alert is sent out.