Go to contents

Restoring a long-disconnected hotline should be the first step

Restoring a long-disconnected hotline should be the first step

Posted January. 03, 2018 07:58,   

Updated January. 03, 2018 09:11


The South Korean government offered high-level talks with North Korea to be held on next Tuesday. In order to make it work, the first step to take is to restore a communication channel between the two Koreas that has been completely disconnected for one year and nine months. If Pyeongyang agrees to the offer, there are only about seven days left for the two Koreas to negotiate. This is why all eyes are on whether the hotline will be restored as the two Koreas will have to work on details regarding the agenda of the talks and members of the delegation.

The two Koreas have two ways of contacting each other: through the Panmunjom liaison office and military communications line. The former Park Geun-hye administration promptly decided to shut down operations at Kaesong Industrial Complex the day after North Korea carried out its fourth nuclear test in January 2016. In a show of protest, the North cut off all communication channels and they have stayed inactive for one year and nine months since then. The direct phone line between the North Korean military and the United Nations Command has been disconnected since 2013.

The only communication channel left between the two Koreas is loud speaker broadcasts at the Joint Security Area (JSA) of the Panmunjom truce village. When the South Korean government sent back a North Korean fishing boat stranded in the East Sea in June last year, it notified the North of the schedule through the loud speaker. Shouting out what one has to say through a loud speaker can hardly be a proper way of communication.

President Moon Jae-in in July last year offered the North to halt “all acts of hostility” near the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) and requested the North to respond to the offer, but the North remained unresponsive.

The South Korean government is expecting Pyongyang to act differently this time, as Kim Jong Un expressed his willingness to meet with South Korean officials in his New Year’s Day address.

“We are not sure if the North will directly communicate with us and set the meeting schedule or request a preliminary meeting between working-level officials,” a government official said. “But we expect the North to contact us in a few days through the direct phone line at the Panmunjom.”

Jin-Woo Shin niceshin@donga.com