News / Asia

2 Koreas Hotline Goes Silent Again

A South Korean army soldier walks near a sign showing the distance to the North Korean capital Pyongyang and to South's capital Seoul from Imjingang Station near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, June 12, 2013.A South Korean army soldier walks near a sign showing the distance to the North Korean capital Pyongyang and to South's capital Seoul from Imjingang Station near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, June 12, 2013.
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A South Korean army soldier walks near a sign showing the distance to the North Korean capital Pyongyang and to South's capital Seoul from Imjingang Station near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, June 12, 2013.
A South Korean army soldier walks near a sign showing the distance to the North Korean capital Pyongyang and to South's capital Seoul from Imjingang Station near the border village of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, June 12, 2013.
Red Cross Hotline at Panmunjom village
-Established in 1971
-North and South Korea would make contact two times a day
-North Korea has cut the line several times
-Was recently cut from March 2013 until June 8
-North Korea ignored calls June 12, 2013

Military Hotline
-Used to coordinate movement of people for Kaesong industrial complex
-Kaesong is operated in the North with South Korean money
-North Korea cut the line in 2009, leaving South Korean workers stranded in Kaesong
South Korea said the North is not answering an inter-governmental hotline that Pyongyang restored last week in an effort to coordinate negotiations. The apparent refusal of the North Koreans to communicate is dashing hopes that had soared in recent days of the two neighbors having a significant face-to-face high-level dialog.

South Korea said it twice rang the rival North on Wednesday on the recently reinstated Red Cross hotline at the Panmunjom truce village, but there was no answer.

Asked by a reporter if the talks - which had been scheduled for Wednesday - should be considered to have been canceled or postponed, South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae responded, “The talks are canceled.”

Ryoo, who was to have led Seoul's delegation, had Pyongyang also agreed to send a Cabinet-level official, said the cancellation means the government could not bring results South Koreans were expecting.

But, he said this should be seen as part of the pain of moving towards a new chapter in inter-Korean relations for peace and cooperation. The minister said North Korea should show sincerity for a new relationship between the two Koreas in the future.

Pyongyang notified Seoul on Tuesday that it would not send its delegation. The two Koreas found each other's proposal for the heads of their respective delegations unacceptable.

There has been no comment from Pyongyang since Seoul announced the talks were off.

Last week, North Korea surprised the South by suggesting dialog. A working-level meeting was quickly arranged at Panmunjom. It spanned 17 hours, Sunday and early Monday, and concluded with agreement for higher-level officials to meet just two days later in the South Korean capital.

It had been hoped the talks could lead to a lessening of tension on the Korean peninsula. North Korea is vowing to continue with its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons development, in violation of international sanctions.

South Korea is protected under the American nuclear umbrella and has more than 28,000 uniformed U.S. military personnel in the country.

The peninsula has been divided along the 38th parallel since the end of the World War II, when Japan, the colonial occupier of Korea, was defeated.

A devastating three-year civil war in the early 1950's ended in stalemate. Since then, the two Koreas have not signed a peace treaty nor established diplomatic ties.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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