N. Korea reopens military hotline in middle of talks with S. Korea

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2018-01-09 18:47 Updated : 2018-01-09 18:47
글씨작게 글씨크게

[Joint Press Corps]

SEOUL, Jan. 09 (Aju News) -- North Korea reopened a military hotline, which was closed nearly two years ago at the height of cross-border tensions, as the two Koreas were locked in high-level talks Tuesday on the North's participation in next month's Winter Olympics and a possible thaw in frozen ties.

The South's unification ministry said the military hotline in the western section of the heavily armed border was available as of 2:00 pm (0500 GMT), according to pool reports.

"Currently, South and North Korean military authorities are able to make calls through the military communications line," a ministry official said, adding the North disclosed its decision at talks in the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone (DMZ), which bisects the Korean peninsula.

On Wednesday, South Korea will test the military hotline, which was cut off in February 2016 after South Korea shut down an inter-Korean industrial estate in retaliation for the North's ballistic missile and nuclear tests.

The industrial estate in the North's border city of Kaesong once hosted about 120 South Korean firms employing more than 50,000 North Korean workers. The Kaesong complex, a symbol of inter-Korean cooperation and reconciliation, was considered a rare legitimate source of hard currency for the impoverished North.

The military hotline was used for South Korean businessmen and other people to secure their safe border crossing into the Kaesong complex.

In his New Year's message, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un came up with a sudden peace overture, saying he is willing to send a sports delegation to South Korea. Last week, the North reopened a separate hotline in Panmunjom that has been used for inter-Korean contact.