South Korea turns off loudspeakers after North suspends tests

April 23 (UPI) — South Korea agreed to end loudspeaker broadcasts across the demilitarized zone following North Korea’s decision to halt all nuclear tests.

North Korea’s decision to cease all nuclear and missile tests took South Koreans by surprise last week, and came with no strings attached.

Pyongyang’s decision to shut down Punggye-ri is being interpreted as a breakthrough in Seoul.

In June 2008, North Korea agreed to demolish a cooling tower in Yongbyon, after the United States offered $2.5 million for the decision, but no financial concessions have been made for the North’s most recent decision.

The move is being reciprocated in Seoul, South Korean television network MBC reported Monday.

The shuttering of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, as North Korea increases engagement with the South, was a “voluntary” decision, the South Korean unification ministry said Monday.

“We have heard the [site] was still in working order, and we ascertain [the North] voluntarily decided to suspend operations,” said unification ministry spokesman Baek Tae-hyun.

The decision to end South Korean loudspeaker broadcasts came Monday, four days ahead of the inter-Korea summit at Panmunjom.

“We hope through this measure to bring about results, including an end to mutual slander and propaganda, reflecting the [government-sanctioned] slogan of ‘Peace, A New Start’,” a South Korean military official said, according to local newspaper JoongAng Ilbo.

South Korea not only aired K-pop and popular Korean songs, but also had been broadcasting news of the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the older half-brother of leader Kim Jong Un, according to MBC.

Most North Koreans know very little about Kim’s genealogy.

Sound from the loudspeakers carried well over the border, traveling as far as 15 miles into North Korean territory.

Broadcasts resumed in August 2015 after a landmine incident in the DMZ maimed two South Korean soldiers.