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N.K.'s apology shows hotline between Seoul, Pyongyang spy agencies possibly in operation

North Korea 18:11 September 25, 2020

SEOUL, Sept. 25 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's message offering an apology over the killing of a South Korean fisheries official suggests that the hotline between their spy agencies may have been in operation even though Pyongyang vowed to sever all cross-border commnication lines earlier this year.

The North's United Front Department (UFD) conveyed leader Kim Jong-un's message that he feels "very sorry" for greatly "disappointing" President Moon Jae-in and other South Koreans with the occurrence of the "unsavory" case in its waters, according to Cheong Wa Dae.

The message has raised questions about which communication lines remain open between the two sides after the North vowed to cut off all such hotlines in June, raising the possibility that the hotline between their spy agencies may have still been functioning.

In June, North Korea cut other phone lines with the South, including their official liaison and military lines, in anger over anti-Pyongyang leaflets sent across the border by activists from the South.

At that time, the North cited the inter-Korean joint liaison office's line, the militaries' East and West seas communication lines, the inter-Korean trial communication line and their leaders' hotline but made no mention about the hotline between South Korea's National Intelligence Service and the North's UFD.

The hotline between the two spy agencies was established following the first-ever inter-Korean summit between then-President Kim Dae-jung and late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2000.

The hotline was not used when relations between Seoul and Pyongyang remained sour but was restored in 2018 amid a reconciliatory mood and a historic summit between President Moon and leader Kim Jong-un in April.

This undated file photo shows a South Korean officer checking a western military hotline with North Korea. During high-level talks on Jan. 9, 2018, North Korea told the South that it has recently restored the communication channel severed for nearly two years, according to Seoul officials. (Yonhap)


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