North and South Korea restore hotline after a year

South and North Korea have restored cross-border communications, just over a year since the hotline was cut off, in a surprise move that the two countries said was part of an effort to rebuild trust.

The decision was announced in statements by South Korea’s presidential Blue House and KCNA, the North’s state media agency. KCNA said all inter-Korean communication channels were reopened at 10am on Tuesday (01:00 GMT) in line with an agreement between the countries’ two leaders. The Blue House said the restoration of communication lines would have a “positive impact on the improvement and development of South-North relations”. KCNA also welcomed the “positive effects” of the decision, which it said represented “a big stride in recovering the mutual trust and promoting reconciliation”. The move to restore hotline links comes 13 months after Pyongyang shut down all communication in protest over Seoul’s supposed failure to stop activists from sending anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets across the border. President Moon Jae-in and the North’s leader Kim Jong-un have also exchanged multiple letters since April in which they committed to restoring inter-Korean ties.

At least 49 hotlines have been set up between the two Koreas since the 1970s, and Seoul sees them as a crucial tool to prevent misunderstandings from unexpected military developments, especially along their shared heavily fortified demilitarised zone (DMZ). But North Korea cut the hotline in June 2020 as cross-border ties soured after a failed second summit in February 2019 between Kim and former US president Donald Trump, which Moon had offered to mediate. It also blew up a joint liaison office in its border town of Kaesong.