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Unanswered questions on Seoul-Pyongyang hotline restoration

An inter-Korean joint liaison building in the North Korean city of Kaesong is being blown up in this file photo dated on June 19, 2020. (KCNA-Yonhap)
An inter-Korean joint liaison building in the North Korean city of Kaesong is being blown up in this file photo dated on June 19, 2020. (KCNA-Yonhap)
Following Cheong Wa Dae’s surprise announcement on the hotline restoration between South and North Korea earlier in the day, questions poured in on its official KakaoTalk chat room for registered reporters only. Due to the heightened social distancing rules, its Chunchugwan press center is currently shut down, with all official communications being done online.

After answering to the first batch of questions in the morning, the presidential office received another batch of questions later in the day -- a rare case that reflects the keen interest in the exact meaning of the two Koreas reopening the severed official communication channels after a 13-month hiatus.

According to a senior Cheong Wa Dae official who wished to be unnamed, President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un started exchanging personal letters since April 27, the third anniversary of their first summit talks in the border truce village of Panmunjeom in 2018.

The leaders touched on a slew of issues ranging from COVID-19 to heavy rainfalls in the North. But holding an immediate summit talks was not on the agenda. They tentatively agreed to work together to improve the soured inter-Korean relationship, and the first outcome of the monthslong discussions was reopening the severed hotlines.

Still, many questions remain unanswered as Seoul’s presidential office denied to further elaborate, citing the mutual agreements made with Pyongyang. Here are some of them.

Q: Was there any apology or comment from the North over its blowing up of a joint liaison office in the North Korean city of Kaesong in June last year? Any restoration plans for the wrecked facility?

Q: Four hotlines operated by unification and defense ministries have been recovered. What about the direct hotline installed in Cheong Wa Dae?

Q: Any plans for a direct phone call between Moon and Kim? Was there any disagreement on the restoration of the Cheong Wa Dae hotline?

Q: If the restoration of the hotlines is the starting point for resuming talks with the North, what’s the next step?

Q: Did Kim’s younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, play any role with the hotline reopening?

Q: Tuesday’s announcement came after the US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman visited Seoul last week. Were there any discussions between Seoul and Washington on the hotline matter?

By Lee Ji-yoon (