The Koreas | Security | East Asia

North Korea Demolishes Inter-Korean Liaison Office in Kaesong

The demolition marks a stark reversal of inter-Korean progress that had begun in 2018.

Ankit Panda
North Korea Demolishes Inter-Korean Liaison Office in Kaesong
Credit: Ministry of Unification

South Korean authorities announced on Tuesday that the North Korean government had demolished the inter-Korean liaison office situated in the city of Kaesong, on the North Korean side of the border. According to the South Korean Ministry of Unification, high explosives demolished the building at 2:49 p.m. local time.

The demolition comes days after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, issued a statement threatening to reduce the facility to “dust.” Kim cited recent anti-North Korean regime leaflet launches across the inter-Korean border by South Korean civil groups as a threat to the “dignity” of the North Korean supreme leadership.

The demolition of the inter-Korean liaison office also came not long after the release of a statement by the Korean People’s Army General Staff announcing that North Korean troops would move into areas of the inter-Korean border that had been demilitarized as part of the implementation of the September 2018 inter-Korean Comprehensive Military Agreement.

The North Korean side confirmed the demolition in a statement shortly after South Korea confirmed the event. “The relevant field of the DPRK put into practice the measure of completely destroying the North-South joint liaison office in the Kaesong Industrial Zone in the wake of cutting off all the communication liaison lines between the north and the south,” the Korean Central News Agency, North Korea’s outward-facing state media, said.

The demolition was a result of “the mindset of the enraged people to surely force human scum and those, who have sheltered the scum, to pay dearly for their crimes,” KCNA added. “At 14:50, the liaison office was tragically ruined with a terrific explosion,” it added.

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The destruction of the Kaesong liaison office may be followed up with other North Korean actions. In recent statements, Kim Yo Jong also threatened other non-specified actions that may involve the North Korean military.

The demolition of the Kaesong liaison office comes just one day after the 20th anniversary of the first-ever inter-Korean leaders’ summit on June 15, 2000. On that day, South Korean President Kim Dae-jung met Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il.

In 2018, South Korean President Moon Jae-in met Kim Jong Un for three separate summit meetings: twice at the inter-Korean border and once in Pyongyang. North Korea had previously expressed frustration with what it saw as a lack of progress on inter-Korean economic cooperation, which has been limited by the continuous existence of international sanctions on the North Korean government for its pursuit of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.