Earlier this week, reports emerged that North Korea had demolished an inter-Korean joint office based in Kaesong after weeks of escalating tensions between the two Koreas.

The move comes shortly after Pyeongyang cut off all communications with its southern counterpart, threatening Seoul with military action and warning that they would send deployed soldiers to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

Fortunately, the building in question had been left empty since January due to the coronavirus outbreak. North Korea admitted to the explosion in a KCNA news agency statement where it addressed the reasoning behind the attack as a “mindset of the enraged people to surely force human scum and those, who have sheltered the scum, to pay dearly for their crimes.”

The statement is thought to reference North Korean defectors and activists that have been launching leaflets via balloons into the country criticising North Korean leadership. However, experts believe that the bigger problem lies between the complicated triangle comprised of South Korea, North Korea and the United States.

South Korean President Moon Jae-In has chosen to preserve the country’s relationship with the United States, much to the chagrin of North Korea. Pyeongyang has been on the receiving end of economic sanctions imposed due its nuclear and missile programmes, and clearly regards the relationship between Seoul and the US as a problem.

“He does not want to get in trouble with the United States and he does not want to get in trouble with North Korea,” said Andrei Lankov, a professor at Kookmin University and a specialist on North Korea. “But trouble with the United States is a far greater problem for him,” he added.

A Rocky Past

The hostility between the two Koreas dates back several decades. After the Korean War, the two sides signed the Korean Armistice Agreement which saw the creation of the DMZ – a border that divides the peninsula roughly in half.

However, with no peace treaty officially signed, technically the two sides are still at war. Nevertheless, since 2018, there have been significant breakthroughs between the two Koreas including Pyeongyang’s participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics. North and South Korea have also signed the Panmunjom Declaration for Peace and the Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula signifying the two nations commitment to reconciliation.

However, as tensions continue to escalate with Seoul making it clear that it would retaliate if needed, the positive developments of the last two years look to be quickly dissolving.

Photo Credit: Al Jazeera

Aisha Mohamed