Blue House offers muted response to N. Korea severing all inter-Korean communication lines

Posted on : 2020-06-10 16:51 KST Modified on : 2020-06-10 17:05 KST
Unification Ministry simply states communication must be maintained
A South Korean soldier attempts to make contact with the North Korean side. (Yonhap News)
A South Korean soldier attempts to make contact with the North Korean side. (Yonhap News)

Even though the North Korean government took the harsh step of cutting off all lines of communication with the South on June 9, Seoul has been cautious about making a response, remaining silent aside from the Ministry of Unification (MOU) expressing the government’s basic position.

An MOU official communicated that position to reporters on Tuesday morning. “The inter-Korean phone lines are a basic means of communication and as such must be maintained under inter-Korean agreements. The government will work for the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula while abiding by inter-Korean agreements,” the official said.

No Blue House officials were willing to comment officially or even anonymously. That suggests that officials are still discussing what action might defuse North Korea’s increasingly harsh behavior, which began with a statement by Kim Yo-jong on June 4. Kim is the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the first deputy director of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK).

The most pressing issue is the propaganda leaflets that defector groups are launching into North Korea via balloons. The government has reiterated that, in the short term, it will mobilize the police to block the balloon launches and that, in the mid- and long term, it will enact a new law to provide legal support to efforts to turn the demilitarized zone (DMZ) into a zone of peace.

“The Democratic Party and the government need to enact a law that bans the launch of the propaganda leaflets. If we just gloss over this, it will spell the end of inter-Korean relations under the Moon administration,” said former Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok, a guest speaker at a seminar on the 20th anniversary of the June 15 Joint Declaration.

But the government’s dilemma is that reining in the balloon launches may not be enough to bring about a change of attitude in North Korea. Even though the tight net of tough sanctions on the North makes it difficult to devise a plan, the government is still obligated to try to create independent space for turning around inter-Korean relations.

By Lee Je-hun, senior staff writer

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