SEOUL, Jan. 4 (Korea Bizwire) – North Korea has reopened a cross-border communications channel with South Korea nearly two years after the shutdown of the Kaesong Industrial Complex.
Two Koreas had their first contact via a hotline that has been suspended for 23 months on Wednesday.
The surprising news came only hours after a senior North Korean government official announced on state-owned Korean Central Television that leader Kim Jong-un had ordered the reopening of the channel at the border village of Panmunjom.
Following the reports however, the Bareun Party, one of the major South Korean political parties, issued a statement welcoming Kim’s decision to engage in dialogue, while urging people to refrain from being too optimistic.
“We hope [the reopening of the communications channel) eases the tensions on the Korean peninsula and builds a path for a successful PyeongChang Winter Olympics,” Kwon Seong-ju, the party’s spokesperson said.
In a different tone, the spokesperson urged the government not to take a submissive attitude for the sake of the Winter Olympics, and warned of baseless optimism that could be detrimental to the country.
“We hope the reopened communications channel is used as a toll to ease the tensions surrounding the Korean peninsula and help successfully run the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, instead of an excuse for North Korea to avoid sanctions and pressure,” Kwon added.
It’s not the first time that a communications channel between two Koreas has been severed then resumed, including in 1991 when the North shut down the hotline in response to a joint South Korea-U.S. military drill.
The channel was reopened around three months later, after officials from the two countries reached an agreement.
Pyeongyang’s change in attitude has been seen as positive for the upcoming Winter Olympics, with Kim’s televised New Year speech on Monday brewing speculation of the possible participation of North Korean athletes.
“The Winter Games to be held in South Korea will be a good occasion for the country. We sincerely hope that the Winter Olympics will be a success,” Kim said in his speech.
The South Korean government has welcomed the North’s decision to reopen the hotline, hailing the move as a step towards more dialogue between the two countries.
“We will consult with North Korea over working-level issues in connection to our dialogue offer through the hotline,” South Korea’s unification ministry said.