- South Korean Unification Ministry via Getty Images
- South Korea has been calling North Korea through a communications hotline every day for about two years, and finally someone answered on Wednesday.
- The communications equipment sits along the DMZ border and was put in place to create dialogue between the North and South Korean Red Cross in 1971.
- South Korean officers used to call North Korea every day in the morning and evening, but North Korea stopped responding in 2016.
South Korea has been calling North Korea through a communications hotline every day for two years, and on Wednesday finally someone answered.
South Korean officials at the border made contact with North Korea over the phone at 3:30 p.m. local time Wednesday and spoke for 20 minutes, according to Reuters, although the details of the call have not been disclosed.
The North previously cut off its communications with South Korea after the two countries last spoke on the hotline in late 2015 BBC reported citing South Korean officials. The line went silent shortly after, the report said.
North Korea announced on its state TV that it was reopening its direct telephone line after its leader Kim Jong Un expressed willingness to reestablish a dialogue with South Korea and discuss sending a delegation to next month’s Winter Olympic games in Pyeongchang.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in welcomed Kim’s calls for dialogue, and urged his government to move quickly to organize a North Korean Olympic delegation.
South Korea’s government suggested holding inter-Korean talks at the border village of Panmunjom next week, according to Bloomberg, which could be the first official face-to-face meeting between the two sides since 2015.
- Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
What we know about the hotline
Today, there are 33 communication lines between the two Koreas, according to the BBC citing the South Korean Unification ministry. The lines include daily communication, air-traffic control, and joint economic issues.
The channel used on Tuesday is located in the uninhabited village of Panmunjom, which sits in the Demilitarized Zone.
The hotline in Panmunjom was put in place to create official dialogue between the North and South Korean Red Cross in 1971 and is now reportedly referred to as the “Red Cross” channel.
The two phones, a green phone for outgoing calls and a red phone for receiving calls, are housed inside a building called “House of Freedom,” located only about 100 feet from North Korea’s communication line in Panmungak.
More communication lines were established in the 1990s according to the BBC, when there were increased talks of reunification.
A former South Korean communications officer who worked in Pamunjom in the early 1990s told Yonhap news agency that each day officers would make a call at 9:00 a.m. and again at 4:00 p.m. before leaving for the day.
“We called them on odd dates, and North Korea called us on even dates,” he added.
According to the BBC, a South Korean ministry spokeswoman confirmed the information, but added that North Korea had dropped communication in February 2016, after Seoul closed a joint commercial project in response to the North’s provocative rocket launches.
“Technically, the lines were still connected, but North Korea wasn’t picking up the phone,” the ministry spokeswoman said.