SEOUL, South Korea, Jan. 3 (UPI) — South and North Korea have re-established a communication channel running through the truce village of Panmunjom.
Seoul’s Unification Ministry on Wednesday confirmed that the inter-Korean hotline was reconnected at 3:30 p.m. local time.
Liaison officers on both sides confirmed that the phone and fax lines were working properly, it said.
This came after a North Korean official announced through state-run media that the communication line would be reconnected, under the orders of leader Kim Jong Un.
Ri Son-kwon, chairman of the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, said the hotline would be used to discuss practical matters on dispatching a North Korean delegation to the Olympic Games.
“Reflecting the intentions of the leadership, we will seek close ties with the South in an earnest and sincere manner,” he said.
Ri added that the North Korean leader “positively and highly regarded” the South’s response to his suggestion of sending a North Korean team to the Olympics and making the arrangements through urgent talks with Seoul.
Kim reportedly emphasized that “the issue of improving inter-Korean ties according to the wishes of the people” depends on how the discussions take course.
The North did not mention whether it decided to accept Seoul’s proposal to hold high-level talks next Tuesday, Hankyoreh reported.
However, South Korea’s presidential office welcomed the North’s decision to restore the communication channel, deeming it a “significant step towards holding regular talks.”
The North cut off the hotline installed at the Panmunjom liaison office as well as a military channel in February 2016, in protest of South Korea’s shutdown of the Kaesong Industrial Complex.
On Tuesday, South Korea suggested using the inter-Korean hotline as a means to coordinate the North’s participation in the Winter Olympics as well as set up a high-level dialogue to potentially discuss other areas of mutual concern.