North Korea has reportedly blown up a joint liaison office used for talks with South Korea, reported CNN Tuesday, marking another sign that ties between the two countries have once again soured. North Korean state media reported that the four-story building located in Kaesong on the North Korean side of the division was "completely destroyed by a "terrific explosion" at 2:50 p.m. local time.
There were no injuries reported with the explosion, as the liaison office has been closed since January due to the coronavirus pandemic, CNN reported, citing the South Korean Unification Ministry. South Korean staff had not been to the building since, according to the ministry. North Korea, meanwhile, claimed destroying the office was simply a retaliatory measure after a group of defectors used balloons to send anti-North Korean pamphlets north of the demilitarized zone that separates the two countries.
"The recent foolish act of daring hurt the dignity of our supreme leadership," a statement carried in KCNA Tuesday reads. "The world will clearly see what severe punishment our people will mete out to the South Korean authorities and how they wipe the human scum off the earth."
After the pamphlets were dropped, Kim Jong Un's sister, Kim Yo Jong, told KCNA on Saturday that the "betrayers" who had shared the leaflets, were "riff-raff who dared hurt the absolute prestige of our Supreme Leader representing our country and its great dignity." She also hinted that the liaison office would be destroyed, saying, "Before long, a tragic scene of the useless North-South joint liaison office completely collapsed would be seen."
The liaison office initially was reopened after the 2018 deal struck by Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in that was meant to help the two Koreas communicate. Last week, North Korea announced it would be cutting off all communication with South Korea due to the leaflets that were dropped. In response, North Korean state media also announced Tuesday that the country's armed forces would re-militarize parts of the Korean border that had become peaceful over the years.
An official at South Korea's Presidential Blue House called the decision to blow up the liaison office "an act of betrayal of the expectations of all who wish for the improvement of the inter-Korean relations and settlement of peace on the Korean Peninsula," as per CNN. Meanwhile, the South Korean Defense Ministry said it was monitoring North Korea's armed forces and would "strongly" respond to any provocations.