North Korea blew up a symbolic joint office at the border after a week of fiery threats, South Korean government says

By David Choi

North Korea has demolished an inter-Korean liaison office, an informal embassy between it and South Korea, on Tuesday afternoon.

The building was in the border town of Kaesong, the South Korean government said, according to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency. The demolition took place at around 2:49 p.m. local time and explosions, in addition to smoke, were observed on the North Korean side of the border, the agency said.

No South Korean citizens were reportedly stationed at the office after it was vacated months beforehand due to the coronavirus pandemic.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister and the high ranking official of the Workers' Party of Korea, Kim Yo Jong, previously threatened action against what it described as a propaganda campaign by the South.

Kim Yo Jong, through North Korea's own propaganda media arm, was said to have claimed on June 13 that the country "will soon take the next stage of actions," adding that "in the near future, [South Korea] will see the miserable sight of the useless North-South Korea joint liaison office collapsing without a trace."

Earlier on Monday, North Korea threatened to draft plans to take military action into areas that were disarmed under a previous agreement with the South.

"Our Army will rapidly and thoroughly implement any decisions and orders of the Party and government," the North Korean military said, adding that it would organize an "action plan for taking measures to make the Army advance again into the zones that had been demilitarized under the North-South agreement."

The North Korean military also threatened the plan would "turn the front line into a fortress and further heighten the military vigilance against the South."

Pyongyang has recently claimed that North Korean defectors living in the South was a primary source of its ire. The defectors and South Korean human rights activists have for decades flown leaflets containing pro-democracy messages past the border via balloons, with some containing portable USB drives with South Korean TV shows and music.

Kim Yo Jong denounced the South Korea-based operation and described it as "evil intention," according to the country's propaganda outlet.

The South Korean government does not endorse the leaflet campaign from the peace activists and recently moved to enact legislation to ban the practice.

"The visits are in line with the government's position that the act of scattering leaflets ... heightens tensions between the South and the North and causes danger to the lives and safety of residents in border regions," a South Korean ministry spokesperson said, according to The Korea Herald.