When Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong – rumored to be even more brutal and ruthless a leader than her brother – started making threats against the South and the US, while declaring that President Trump would “never again” be allowed to use the country to score political points, we suspected something was afoot.
Less than two weeks after abruptly cutting off all communication with the South (including an emergency cross-border hotline), North Korea has taken the extreme and unprecedented step of blowing up a liaison office set up along the heavily militarized border between the two countries (which are still technically at war).
According to media reports and black and white surveillance footage shared by South Korea, a loud explosion was heard and smoke could be seen rising into the air as North Korea blew up the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong – the de facto embassy between the two restive neighbors – in a dramatic escalation of tensions with South Korea near the the demilitarized zone.
Here’s more from Reuters:
North Korea blew up an office set up to foster better ties with South Korea in its border town of Kaesong on Tuesday after it threatened to take action if North Korean defectors went ahead with a campaign to send propaganda leaflets into the North.
North Korea’s KCNA state news agency said the liaison office, which had been closed since January over fears of the novel coronavirus, was “tragically ruined with a terrific explosion.”
Black-and-white surveillance video released by South Korea’s Ministry of Defence showed a large explosion that appeared to bring down the four-storey structure. The blast also appeared to cause a partial collapse of a neighbouring 15-storey high-rise that had served as a residential facility for South Korean officials who staffed the liaison office.
North Korea started lashing out at its southern neighbor a few weeks ago, demanding that the Blue House stop South Korean activists sending propaganda pamphlets over the border to try and encourage defectors. The liaison office – described as a gleaming blue building amid a drab industrial backdrop – was recently renovated by the South. Officials became suspicious about an impending attack yesterday, and had been monitoring the liaison office.
KCNA said the office was blown up to force “human scum and those, who have sheltered the scum, to pay dearly for their crimes”. North Korea refers to defectors as “human scum.”
A South Korean military source told Reuters that there had been signs North Korea was going ahead with the demolition earlier in the day, and South Korean military officials watched live surveillance imagery as the building was blown up.
The first diplomatic mission of its kind, the inter-Korean liaison office was established in 2018 as part of a series of projects aimed at reducing tensions between the two Koreas.
The building had been originally used as offices for managing operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a joint venture between the two Koreas that was suspended in 2016 amid disagreement over the North’s nuclear and missile programmes.
South Korea spent at least 9.78 billion won (US$8.6 million) in 2018 to renovate the building, which stood as a gleaming blue glass structure in the otherwise drab industrial city.
Kim’s sister Kim Yo Jong was quoted by state press over the weekend warning about the impending attack, calling on the military to “decisively carry out the next action,” and warning that “…before long, a tragic scene of the useless north-south joint liaison office completely collapsed would be seen.”
Eager to try and preserve relations, the South has asked activists to cease with the propaganda drops, which typically include flyers, $1 bills, mini radios and USB sticks containing South Korean dramas and news usually sent by balloon over the border or in bottles by river.
A rep for the South Korean military told Reuters that the South is “taking the situation seriously.” What’s almost more disturbing: tensions are also flaring on the border between India and China, where Chinese forces killed three Indian troops on Tuesday, as well as the long-contested border region between India and Pakistan.