North Korea shuts down hotline with South

A daily phone call between the two Koreas has been cancelled by the North in a row over a leaflet campaign by defectors from the communist state.

North Korea said that it was shutting down the hotline from Tuesday as well as ending other communications with the South, said state news agency KCNA.

The daily call was made to a liaison office located in the North Korean border city of Kaesong.

The two states had set up the office to reduce tensions after talks in 2018.

North Korea “will completely cut off and shut down the liaison line between the authorities of the North and the South, which has been maintained through the North-South joint liaison office… from 12:00 on 9 June 2020,” the Korean Central News Agency report said.

When the liaison office was temporarily closed in January because of Covid-19 restrictions, contact between the two states was maintained by phone.

The two Koreas made two phone calls a day through the office, at 09:00 and 17:00. On Monday, the South said that for the first time in 21 months, its morning call had gone unanswered, although contact was made in the afternoon.

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.

She said the leaflet campaign was a hostile act that violated the peace agreements made during the 2018 Panmunjom summit between the South’s Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un.

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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