North Korea is reinstalling loudspeakers blaring propaganda across the border in its latest step away from inter-Korean peace agreements, prompting the South's military to explore similar moves.
Tension between the two Koreas has risen in recent weeks after the North blew up a joint liaison office on its side of the border, declared an end to dialogue and threatened military action.
Propaganda loudspeakers, balloons and leaflets. What are they and why do they threaten the security on both sides of the border?
It's the topic of our News In depth with Bernhard Seliger, resident representative of Hanns Seidel Foundation in Seoul to my left and Balazs Szalontai, Professor of North Korean studies at Korea University to my right.
Welcome gentlement to the show.
(Bernhard) North Korea's military has been seen putting up loudspeakers near the DMZ. Such systems were taken down after the two Koreas signed an accord in 2018 to cease "all hostile acts."
What are these loudspeakers? Why are they at the center of tension?
(Balazs) South Korea is also reviewing the option of restoring our loudspeakers. Do you think this is something that should be carried out? As far as I can remember, they used to play K-pop music on those loudspeakers. Does it send an aggressive message to the North?
(Bernhard) North Korea has continued to criticize the South for failing to stop defectors from sending anti-regime propaganda leaflets. Why are the North Koreans so sensitive to these leaflets? What kind of an impact do these leaflets have on North Koreans?
(Balazs) How do these acts violate the Panmunjeom Declaration? What happens if either party violates the declaration?
(Bernhard) Defector activism is something that's been taken place at the border for years.
What are these groups? What do they hope to accomplish?
(Balazs) More anti-North Korean leaflets have been flown across the border last night. How are we expecting North Korea to respond to this latest move?
(Bernhard) The defense ministry said that they are closely monitoring the North's military moves and are fully ready to immediately respond to various possibilities.
Now, what kind of military moves could we anticipate the North carrying out, and what kind of immediate response is the South preparing for?
(Balazs/Bernhard) There is an element of unfortunate timing of recent occurances, as we have the 70th anniversary of the Korean War this week, and the anniversary of the Korean War Armistice Agreement next month.
Inter-Korean relations have been oscillating for the last couple decades. While patterns have been repeating, we're once again at a trough of the relationship.
How are you seeing the threats? Is the fate of the peninsula doomed, or is this all strategy at times of global instability - governments busy with the handling of COVID-19 and recovery from it, but also imminent U.S. elections?
Bernhard Seliger, resident representative of Hanns Seidel Foundation in Seoul and Balazs Szalontai, Professor of North Korean studies at Korea University, many thanks for speaking with us this evening. We appreciate it.