(Yonhap Primer) Destroyed inter-Korean liaison office was a symbol of reconciliation
By Yi Wonju
SEOUL, June 16 (Yonhap) -- The inter-Korean liaison office, which North Korea blew up on Tuesday, was one of the most tangible symbols of cross-border rapprochement, serving as a round-the-clock communication channel between the two Koreas.
The office opened in the North's border city of Kaesong in September 2018 to support exchanges and cooperation after a summit agreement between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in April that year.
The four-story office building, which had been used as the Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation Consultation Office since 2007, was renovated for use as the liaison office.
South Korea spent 9.78 billion won (US$8.64 million) from the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund, approved by the Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Promotion Council, to finance the renovation and repair of the building.
Although the two sides had agreed to hold a weekly meeting of the co-heads of the office -- one from each side -- no such meeting was held since February last year as relations between the two sides chilled in the wake of a no-deal summit between the North's leader and U.S. President Donald Trump.
Since late January, the liaison office was closed temporarily over coronavirus concerns, and South Korea liaison officers stationed there returned home.
Liaison officers of the two sides had since communicated through telephone and fax lines established between Seoul and Pyongyang until early June when the North stopped receiving calls through the liaison office, vowing to cut off all cross-border communication lines.
The two Koreas had made two phone calls daily, at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., as part of liaison communication.
The North took those measures in anger over anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets that defectors in the South fly into the communist nation. Pyongyang blasted Seoul for failing to stop defectors from sending such leaflets.
Early this month, Kim Yo-jong, sister of the North's leader, warned the North will abolish the inter-Korean liaison office, stressing such actions will be the first in a series of steps against South Korea, vowing to deal with the South as "an enemy."
The North also threatened to scrap a military tension-reduction deal signed in 2018, and dismantle a now-shuttered industrial park in the North's border city of Kaesong, unless South Korea takes action to stop the leaflets.
On Saturday, Kim Yo-jong said the South will soon see "a tragic scene of the useless North-South joint liaison office completely collapsed."
And on Tuesday, the North put the threat into action.
"The relevant field of the DPRK put into practice the measure of completely destroying the North-South joint liaison office in the Kaesong Industrial Zone in the wake of cutting off all the communication liaison lines between the north and the south," the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
The destruction was in line with "the mindset of the enraged people to surely force human scum and those, who have sheltered the scum, to pay dearly for their crimes," KCNA said, referring to North Korean defectors in the South sending anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets.
"At 14:50, the liaison office was tragically ruined with a terrific explosion," it said.
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