North Korea seen reinstalling border loudspeakers; satellite photos show liaison office standing but damaged
By Hyonhee Shin
SEOUL (Reuters) - In its final step away from inter-Korean peace agreements, North Korea is reinstalling speakers that spread propaganda across the border, causing the southern military to investigate similar steps, a South Korean military source said Tuesday.
Tensions between the two Koreas have increased in recent weeks after the North blew up a joint liaison office on its side of the border, ended the dialogue and threatened military action.
The North Korean military installed speakers near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Such systems were abolished after the two Koreas signed an agreement in 2018 to end "all hostile acts," the military official said.
"We are also considering reinstalling our own speakers," he said. "But the north hasn't started a broadcast yet, and we're preparing to take countermeasures at any time."
A spokeswoman for the Seoul Ministry of Defense declined to confirm North Korea's moves, but confirmed at a regular meeting that Pyongyang "must pay for the consequences" if it continues to oppose joint efforts to promote peace.
For decades, the two countries have pumped propaganda out of giant orator banks as a form of psychological warfare. The south radiated a mix of news, Korean pop songs and criticism of the northern regime, while the north blew up the south and praised its own socialist system.
Commercial satellite images from the liaison office on Monday showed that the building had stopped but was badly damaged.
Analysts at 38 North, a US company that pursues North Korea, said last week that the explosion "was clearly not a controlled detonation because the building was not leveled and the adjacent buildings had significant collateral damage."
The north began its latest action when it denounced North Korean defectors in the south and sent propaganda leaflets across the border.
Several groups run by defectors have regularly sent out flyers, groceries, $ 1 bills, mini radios and USB sticks with South Korean dramas and news, usually by balloon or bottled in rivers.
A group led by Park Sang-hak, who fled the isolated state in 2000, said Tuesday it had flown 20 balloons with 500,000 leaflets, 500 brochures about South Korea, and 2,000 $ 1 bills.
The South Korean government has taken legal action to end such activities and has raised security concerns for residents in border towns. However, it remains controversial whether it violates the country's protection of freedom of expression.
The Seoul Unification Ministry, which deals with inter-Korean affairs, issued a statement promising a strict response to the Park Group's publication of the leaflets.
Pyongyang's state media said Monday that disgruntled North Koreans had also prepared around 12 million leaflets to be returned.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin. Additional reporting by Josh Smith. Editing by Gerry Doyle)
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