North Korea announced on Tuesday it would “completely cut off” a phone line established with the South in 2018, meant to maintain regular communication across their border, in response to “the disgusting riff-raff” of the South sending humanitarian aid and information.
For decades, South Koreans have dropped leaflets into the North with information on the outside world, including the brutal reality of communist dictator Kim Jong-un’s rule. South Koreans have also found innovative ways to send key humanitarian aid into the country, such as filling water bottles with rice and sending them across the ocean, using the tide to ensure they end up on North Korean shores. Under conservative governments, South Korea also used large loudspeakers to broadcast entertainment, news, and pop music into the country, all of which Pyongyang has outlawed.
In the past, North Korea responded to the deliveries by using airplanes to drop exploding bags of garbage onto South Korea, including used toilet paper and cigarette butts.
More recently, South Korean groups have begun attempting to smuggle sanitary masks into the country to help North Koreans protect from the Chinese coronavirus.
North Korea claims it has documented zero cases of Chinese coronavirus despite sharing borders with China, Russia, and South Korea, three of the countries with the highest rates of infection in the world.
This week, in light of increasing attempts to help the people of North Korea from its neighbors to the South, North Korea vocally condemned the move as an attempt by “mongrels” to create divisions in the country. On Monday, North Korean authorities did not answer the two daily calls the South has made on the “liaison line” established in 2018 for the first time since Kim agreed to the communications at a meeting with leftist South Korean President Moon Jae-in that year. The calls went unanswered on Tuesday, as well.
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the official media outlet of the communist North Korean regime, declared on Tuesday that “the relevant field of our side will completely cut off and shut down the liaison line between the authorities of the north and the south.”
“The disgusting riff-raff have committed hostile acts against the DPRK [North Korea] by taking advantage of the south [sic] Korean authorities’ irresponsible stance and with their connivance. They dared to hurt the dignity of our supreme leadership and mock the sacred mental core of all our people,” KCNA declared in its statement, without specifically identifying the “disgusting riff-raff.”
“As far as the issue of the dignity of our supreme leadership is concerned, there can neither be a pardon nor an opportunity. They should be forced to pay dearly for this,” KCNA asserted.
Shutting down the phone line, KCNA concluded, was “the first step of the determination to completely shut down all contact means with south [sic] Korea and get rid of unnecessary things.”
Elsewhere throughout North Korea’s various state-run communist publications, the invective escalated to levels largely unseen since Moon’s predecessor, conservative President Park Geun-hye, lost the presidency. One article in state media vowed of South Korean pro-democracy actors, “we will crush them up entirely.” The Pyongyang Times, an English-language propaganda outlet, specifically condemned the democratic leaflets, calling their distribution a “wicked act” that “makes us women’s union officials and members boil with rage.”
“A club is best to beat to a pulp such mongrels that frantically bark, unable to discern what they are doing, and those utter fools who shield them,” the Pyongyang Times asserted.
“I want to run at once and beat into a pulp human scum who dared to debase the dignity of the supreme leadership our people trust and follow like the sun in the sky,” another Pyongyang Times article, which did not identify its author, read.
Another column in the propaganda outlet Naenara, allegedly written by a communist profession, called dropping leaflets with news about the outside world the “rash acts of human scum hardly worth the value of human beings.” Naenara claimed that students throughout the country had taken the streets to protest South Korean aid and leaflets.
North Korea appears to have significantly escalated its outrage towards the South this weekend in response to another batch of privately disseminated pro-democracy leaflets, and reportedly at the urging of Kim Yo-jong, sister to the dictator and considered one of the most senior members of the communist nation’s Politburo. Kim issued a “very meaningful warning to those human scum” sending leaflets last week threatening action if the activities did not stop, prompting leftist South Korean authorities to urge pro-freedom activists to stop sending information north.
“Activities that risk lives and properties of the residents of border areas must be stopped,” Yoh Sang-key, a spokesman for the Unification Ministry, said last Thursday. “The government has been paying attention to some occasions in which distribution of anti-North propaganda leaflets raised tension in the border regions and took measures to halt the activities.”
The South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo identified the trigger to Kim’s outraged statement as a civil North Korean refugee group dropping 500,000 leaflets against Kim Jong-un into the country, as well as “50 books, 2,000 $1 bills and 1,000 computer memory cards via balloons.”
North Korea’s escalation appears to be a sign that Kim Yo-jong has amassed more power in recent months, now personally handling relations with the South, according to a report in the South Korean conservative newspaper Chosun Ilbo.
“More and more North Korean agencies are quoting Kim Yo-jong’s denunciations of South Korea. A government source here said, ‘Kim Yo-jong’ remarks are being treated as a directive from the leader,'” Chosun reported.
Prior to this ascent, Kim was believed to be in charge of North Korea’s “Propaganda and Agitation Department,” in charge of all state media. Kim managed the nation’s messaging at the height of its belligerence, publishing multiple sexists screeds that referred to former President Park as, among other things, a “bitch,” “an old cat,” “a cold-blooded animal,” and an “ugly old maid.”