North Korea Escalates Tensions, Blows Up Liaison Building Used By North And South

( Tensions between North Korea and South Korea have been building recently, and the dictatorship sent a message Monday that it is not happy.

North Korea blew up a joint liaison office that was used for talks between the North and the South. The four-story building was located in Kaesong in North Korea, and it was “completely destroyed by a terrific explosion,” according to North Korea’s state-run media.

South Korean staff haven’t been to the building since it was closed on January 30 because of the coronavirus pandemic, the South Korean Unification Ministry said.

While the destruction of the building may not lead to escalating tensions, it is symbolic of the breakdown of talks between North Korea and South Korea. The South paid for the building that was located on the North’s soil, and it was supposed to facilitate dialogue between the two countries.

When it was re-opened roughly three years ago, it was a sign that the two countries were committing themselves to “a new era of peace.”

North Korean officials said the move was in response to defectors who recently used balloons to send anti-North leaflets into North Korea over the DMZ.

A statement that was carried by KCNA on Tuesday read:

“The recent foolish act of daring hurt the dignity of our supreme leadership. The world will clearly see what severe punishment our people will mete out to the South Korean authorities and how they wipe the human scum off the earth.”

North Korean officials said the distribution of those leaflets violated a 2018 deal that was struck at a first summit between Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. At that summit, the leaders agreed to cease “all hostile acts and eliminating their means, including broadcasting through loudspeakers and distribution of leaflets” along the border they share.

In North Korea, it is illegal for people to consume information not approved by the dictatorship. Going against that law can have dire consequences.

For its part, The Presidential Blue House in South Korea called the destruction of the building “an act of betrayal of the expectations of all who wish for the improvement of the inter-Korean relations and settlement of peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

The South Korean Defense Ministry said it would “strongly” respond to military provocations from the North Korean army.

In the statement from North Korea, Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, demanded South Korea punish those defectors responsible for the leaflets, who she called “betrayers,” “human scum” and “riff-raff who dared hurt the absolute prestige of our Supreme Leader representing our country and its great dignity.

“Before long, a tragic scene of the useless North-South joint liaison office completely collapsed would be seen.”

Some outside Korea believe that the North responded this way to influence the South by creating a false crisis. They have done this in the past to create urgency in negotiations with the United States, or to cause a rift between the U.S. and South Korea.