North and South Korea restore communication channels in an effort to improve their relationship

The nations announced that their two leaders have been exchanging letters since the spring

Published: July 27, 2021 7:38am

Updated: July 27, 2021 9:45am

North and South Korea traded messages Tuesday using communication channels that have been quiet for more than a year. The two countries agreed it is time to improve their relationship.

Officials from the North and South communicated via phone on three channels including a military hotline, agreeing to once again resume twice daily conversations. The sometimes oppositional nations use the lines to explain their stances on issues and propose broader discussion. 

On Tuesday, the nations announced that their leaders, the North's Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, have exchanged several letters since this spring, leading to the decision to reopen communication lines. The announcement coincides with the 68th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the Korean War. 

North Korea has previously decided to cut off channel communication when there is tensions between Pyongyang and Washington or Seoul.

Last summer, the North cut off communication after growing frustrated that the South failed to stop activists from sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border. It ultimately retaliated by blowing up an empty liaison office close to the border between the two countries. 

The North's economy remains in shambles due to extremely harsh COVID-19 restrictions, which are compounding issues that include significant mismanagement and unresolved damage from storms that whipped the country last summer.

Some experts speculate the North's economic difficulties are close to the point where the country will have no choice but to reach out to the U.S. or South Korea. But, they don't seem to be there quite yet. Moon says the letters did not discuss holding a summit or phone discussion.

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