North Korea to Re-Militarize Site of Former Joint Office with South

A North Korean soldiers stands before spectators during a mass military parade at Kim Il-Sung square in Pyongyang on October 10, 2015. North Korea was marking the 70th anniversary of its ruling Workers' Party. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images

North Korea’s army announced on Wednesday it would begin repopulating areas where it had agreed to establish demilitarized cooperation zones with South Korea, its latest provocation since blowing up the North-South joint liaison office on Tuesday.

Following a meeting between leftist South Korean President Moon Jae-in and communist dictator Kim Jong-un in 2018, the two countries agreed to establish the office as a base for meeting between diplomats from the two countries. The office also featured a “direct line” on which representatives of both countries spoke twice a day.

Pyongyang stopped answering South Korea’s calls last week after publishing a vitriolic statement from Kim Yo-jong, the dictator’s sister, threatening military action if Seoul did not act to stop human right activists from using balloons and other improvised devices to send leaflets with banned news of the outside world written on them into North Korea. Although Moon’s government ceded to North Korean demands by persecuting the human rights activists, the Kim regime blew the joint liaison office up on Tuesday, anyway.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), the armed forces of communist North Korea, announced the redeployment of troops to the former site of the joint liaison office and other previously demilitarized areas.

“Regiment-level units and necessary firepower sub-units with defense mission will be deployed in the Mt Kumgang tourist area and the Kaesong Industrial Park where the sovereignty of our Republic is exercised,” the spokesman said. Kaesong Industrial Park was the site of a failed joint project for economic development founded in 2004; the joint liaison office was located in Kaesong, as well. Mt. Kumgang is the site of a former tourist area established to foster ties between North and South Koreans shut down after a North Korean soldier killed visiting a South Korean woman.

The KPA also announced that “civil police posts that had been withdrawn from the Demilitarized Zone under the north-south agreement in the military field will be set up again to strengthen the guard over the front line.” Areas that already boast a North Korean military presence, the statement continued, would receive reinforcements and North Korean soldiers would resume “regular military exercises” paused after the 2018 talks.

The military also announced a new campaign of communist propaganda leaflets to be littered into South Korea. North Korea has responded to information and humanitarian campaigns by South Korean citizens in the past by dumping large amounts of used toilet paper and garbage into its neighbor.

The move followed threats on Monday to use military force against the “human scum” against those who distribute leaflets or food goods like rice, which humanitarian aid groups often use to fill water bottles and float them into North Korea for the starving population. By Tuesday, the Kaesong joint liaison office had collapsed. South Korean officials believe that North Korean workers at the office evacuated after leaving explosives throughout the facility this week, then blew it up on Tuesday.

North Korea contributed no funds to constructing the joint liaison office, which cost at least $8 million.

“The statements signal the final nail in the coffin of a cross-border military pact signed in 2018 to reduce tensions and military presence in the frontline area,” the South Korean conservative newspaper Chosun Ilbo observed. “The North has repeatedly violated the pact, which mandated the demolition of some guard posts in the demilitarized zone and disarming of border guards in the truce village of Panmunjom.”

Kim Yo-jong also issued yet another statement following the destruction of the joint liaison office on Wednesday, repeatedly insulting Moon personally. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the official media outlet of North Korea, titled Kim’s statement “Honeyed Words of Impudent Man Are Disgusting.”

“The south Korean chief executive finally broke his silence, amid the north-south relations inching close to the worst catastrophe,” Kim Yo-jong reportedly said. “He reeled off a string of shameless and impudent words full of incoherence.”

“It is well-known to everybody that the blame for the present grim situation rests with human scum’s scattering of anti-DPRK leaflets and the south Korean authorities’ connivance at it. The recent speeches made by the south Korean chief executive should have reflected his apology, repentance and firm pledge to prevent the recurrence of similar occurrences,” the statement continued. “But his speech was full of excuses and spurious rhetoric to get rid of responsibility, without any mention of the means and the end.”

“He seems to be insane though he appears to be normal outwardly,” Kim concluded of Moon.

“It is a senseless act to disparage (Moon’s speech earlier this week) in a very rude tone without understanding its purpose at all,” Yoon Do-han – the senior secretary for public communication in South Korea’s presidential office, the Cheong Wa Dae – responded in a flabbergasted statement to the press. “We won’t tolerate any more of North Korea’s indiscreet rhetoric and acts, which fundamentally harm the mutual trust the leaders of the two sides have built so far. We hope the North side will have basic courtesy.”

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