Foreign Policy Watch: India-South Korea

Why did North Korea blow up a joint liaison office with Seoul?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : DMZ, Armstice Agreement

Mains level : Read the attached story

North Korea blew up the joint liaison office with South Korea in Kaesong, an industrial township on its side of the border, becoming one of the most serious incidents to have occurred between the two countries, without them actually going to war.

Must read:

What is the Korean Armistice Agreement?

Practice question for mains:

Q. What is the Korean Armstice Agreement? Discuss the concept of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)?

What is this liaison office?

  • In 2003, North Korea and South Korea jointly set up a liaison office at Kaesong in North Korea.
  • It was set up in 2018 to facilitate communication between North Korea and South Korea.
  • The Kaesong Industrial Complex is a joint industrial zone where factories are operated and run by both North Koreans and South Koreans.
  • At its height, approximately 120 factories were operating in this industrial zone with more than 50,000 North Korean employees and several hundred managers.

Why did Pyongyang demolish it?

  • Since the past week, tensions between the two countries had increased after Pyongyang objected to activists and defectors in South Korea sending anti-North Korean propaganda leaflets, rice and Bibles using balloons.
  • Experts believe that these moves come after North Korea’s frustrations at South Korea’s inability to revive inter-Korean economic projects under pressure from the US, along with UN sanctions.

What’s next?

  • The demolition occurred just days after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong had threatened to destroy the liaison office.
  • Following the demolition, North Korean said that it would be deploying troops in demilitarized areas, including in the Kaesong industrial zone.

Are they heading towards war?

  • Observers say that these actions by North Korea have been the most provocative in recent years.
  • Experts believe these provocations may have occurred because Pyongyang is hoping to pressure Seoul into giving it more concessions that would be economically beneficial for North Korea that has been hit hard by sanctions.
  • Experts believe these actions, however provocative, are not severe enough for Seoul to contemplate military aggression in retaliation.
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