South Korea’s Unification Ministry has confirmed that the Kaesong liaison office has been destroyed by North Korea.
The building, situated in the North Korean border town of Kaesong had been in use since 2018 as an inter-Korean liaison office in order to facilitate communication between the two states, officially still at war since 1953.
Fortunately, the building had been out of use since January due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic and thus there was no personnel present at the time of the explosion.
The demolition occurred at 14:49 local time (06:49 BST) and was followed by a confirmation by official North Korean media, stating the act was a response to Seoul’s unwillingness to prevent North Korean defectors from smuggling information and goods into the North.
Defectors in the South have sent leaflets, food and flash drives containing South Korean media to North Korean border towns, often via balloons or drones. Pyongyang states these acts are a violation of peace agreements between the two sides.
North Korean politician Kim Yo-jong, sister to Kim Jong-un and the Vice Director of Pyongyang’s department responsible for propaganda and relations with South Korea, had expressed her discontent with the liaison office, defining it as “useless”.
These comments came with threats of the building’s destruction during the weekend and were followed by further threats of military actions by the Korean People’s Army in the DMZ.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has expressed his dissatisfaction with the state of relations between the two Koreas and regrets over the progress in cooperation. He also expressed his desire to maintain to maintain relations which the two countries “should build through constant dialogue.”
On the other hand, the President’s government has reacted by attempting to prevent further balloons leaving for North Korea, a move which his critics have deemed as a submission to Northern threats.
While officially a retaliation to the current situation with defectors, some experts have expressed their belief that the demolition and the following threats are being used as a tool to renew dialogue between the hermit kingdom and the USA.
Dialogue had broken down in 2019 between the two nations after failed negotiations over the sanctions imposed on the country due to its nuclear weapons program.
Reports of food shortages in North Korean also add weight to the theory suggesting that the destruction of the office and the recent aggressive rhetoric are being used as a way to gain leverage in future negotiations.