News & Politics

North Korea Blows Up South Korea Liaison Office on Border

Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un attends a wreath-laying ceremony at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam, Saturday, March 2, 2019. Kim and his delegation have paid his respects to Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh, whose embalmed body is on permanent display, just like Kim's own father and grandfather in North Korea. (Jorge Silva/Pool Photo via AP)

As diplomats are wont to say, “this is not helpful.”

North Korea blew up a South Korean liaison office located just over the border in North Korea after threatening a “tragic scene” at the site a few days ago.

Fox News:

NK News, an organization that tracks North Korean state-run media, reported that the North’s KCNA said the nation had cut off all communication between the two countries. North Korea had previously cut a key hotline with the South and had threatened to shut down all communication with its neighbor to the South.

“The north-south joint liaison office was completely ruined on Tuesday,” the propaganda statement read. “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 communication ties between the north and the south, corresponding to the mindset of the enraged people to surely force human scum and those, who have sheltered the scum, to pay dearly for their crimes.”

Kim Jong-un was apparently miffed that some South Korean activists flew propaganda leaflets across the border. That’s not enough of an excuse to blow up a building. What’s really happening?

North Korea is frustrated with South Korea for being unable to work on joint economic projects because of U.S. sanctions. Chris Wallace of Fox News:

“The larger issue,” Wallace told host Neil Cavuto, “is that it just seems that for all of the talk about denuclearization, the U.S. and North Korea have very different understandings about what that was.”

I think Kim understands what we want out of denuclearization perfectly well. There is no “misunderstanding.” Kim just doesn’t want to give up his bombs.

“Part of the reason that the North Koreans are taking it out on the South Koreans is that the South Koreans have talked about more economic cooperation [and] even allowing [South Koreans] to go to some resorts in North Korea,” Wallace added.

“That was contingent upon progress towards denuclearization. When that fell apart — the South’s cooperation with the North fell apart — the North took it out on that building in Kaesong.”

Then there’s the question of Kim’s enigmatic sister, Kim Yo Jong, and her role in the destruction of the liaison office. It was she who warned that the propaganda leaflets could lead to a “tragic scene.”

Nikkei Asian Review:

Kim Yo Jong is seen as the main driver behind these provocations. She said in a Saturday statement that she had ordered the military to take its “next action” on South Korea by “exercising my power authorized by the Chairman, the Party and the State.”

She also threatened to demolish the liaison office for the two Koreas in the border town of Kaesong.

“I feel it is high time to surely break with the South Korean authorities,” Kim Yo Jong said.

This sounds like a woman on the make, preparing to take power. Kim Jong-un has gone AWOL and is either hunkered down in a bunker somewhere riding out the coronavirus pandemic or on a slab somewhere. It raises the question of why his sister is so visible.

Kim Yo Jong is trying to prove to the male-dominated leadership that she’s as tough as any man and can handle the responsibilities of being a dictatoress. Whether her services are required or will be soon, is not known.

A change in regime on the Korean peninsula is always fraught with tension and uncertainty. Is that what we’re seeing here?