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South And North Korea Restore Hotline As Pyongyang Fails Five-Year Economic Plan

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South And North Korea Restore Hotline As Pyongyang Fails Five-Year Economic Plan

The Truce village in the DMZ between the South and North

South and North Korea have restored cross-border communications, just shy over a year after they severed them.

The two countries said that the move was an attempt to rebuild trust.

The decision was announced in statements by South Korea’s presidential Blue House and KCNA, the North’s state media agency.

KCNA said all inter-Korean communication channels were reopened, in line with an agreement between Seoul and Pyongyang’s leadership.

The Blue House said the restoration of communication lines would have a “positive impact on the improvement and development of South-North relations”.

KCNA also welcomed the “positive effects” of the decision, which it said represented “a big stride in recovering the mutual trust and promoting reconciliation”.

Both sides said South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had been exchanging letters since April this year.

In a rare admission, Kim said that the North had faced serious issues in 2021, after it closed its border with China early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

In January, he told a party congress that the North’s five-year economic plan had failed in almost every area, amid chronic power and food shortages exacerbated by sanctions, the pandemic and floods.

In June, he described the food situation as “tense”.

South’s President Moon, who has long sought warmer relations with Pyongyang and is credited with brokering the initial summit between Kim and Trump in June 2018 and has called for a recovery of the hotline and stalled denuclearization talks.

North Korea severed the hotlines on June 9, 2020, in the wake of a failed February 2019 summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and former US President Donald Trump, which South Korean President Moon Jae-in had offered to mediate.

North Korea lashed out at Seoul, and days later, it blew up a joint liaison office launched in its border town of Kaesong in 2018.

Before then, the hotlines were last cut in 2016 amid North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear tests. During that period, South Korean officials sometimes used a bullhorn to shout messages across the Joint Security Area (JSA) in Panmunjom, the only spot along the DMZ where troops from both sides stand face to face.

When the lines were restored in 2018, liaison officials spoke mostly using desktop telephone consoles dating to the 1970s, each the size of a small refrigerator. They would usually exchange brief greetings or notices, and fax machines were used to send detailed messages and documents, Seoul officials said.

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