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Asia Minute: Behind the Korean Communication 'Hotline'

Michael Day

National governments in Seoul and Pyongyang are back in touch with each other again.

Thirteen months ago, North Korea disconnected the communication ties — while it’s often referred to as a “hotline,” this is not just a single phone connection.

There are several: on the South Korean side, two are run by the military, and two are run by the cabinet-level Unification Ministry.

And the phones are not just for emergency use. Part of the standard procedure is to have two regular calls each day, a practice that South Korean government officials said has already resumed.

A government spokesman said South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have exchanged several letters since April aimed at improving relations.

North Korea’s official media said the restoration of direct communications would have a “positive effect” on the relations between the two countries.

But don’t look for a summit or other dramatic moves anytime soon.

In a symbolic move, the communications agreement was announced on the 68th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953.

Yonhap News reported there’s also a way to exchange documents between the countries, although not with the latest available technology.

Government officials said the communications deal includes the reconnection of fax machines.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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