North Korea: Call from South to North goes unanswered for first time

Image source, Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
Image caption,
The North wants the South to stop defector groups sending propaganda balloons over the border

South Korea's daily call to a jointly-run liaison office in North Korea has gone unanswered for the first time.

The break came days after North Korea said it would pull out of the inter-Korean liaison office, located in the North Korean border city of Kaesong.

The agency was set up to reduce tensions between the two nations - part of an agreement signed by leaders Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un in 2018.

The agency was temporarily closed in January due to Covid-19 restrictions.

But the two sides had been in regular contact until Monday.

The two Koreas make two phone calls a day through the liaison office, at 09:00 and 17:00. The South's unification ministry said on Monday that for the first time in 21 months the call from the South had gone unanswered.

"We will attempt to call again this afternoon as planned," said Yoh Sang-key, a government spokesperson.

Kim Yo-jong, the North Korean leader's sister, threatened last week to close the office unless South Korea stopped defector groups from sending leaflets into the North, according to state media reports.

She said the leaflet campaign was a hostile act that violated the peace agreements made during the 2018 Panmunjom summit between the two leaders.

Media caption,
South Korean activists launch propaganda balloons over border (2014 video)

North Korean defectors occasionally send balloons carrying leaflets critical of the communist region into the North, sometimes with supplies to entice North Koreans to pick them up.

North Koreans can only get news from state-controlled media, and most do not have access to the internet.

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