South Korean military footage showing the moment North Korea blew up the Kaesong liaison office.
North Korea blows up liaison office used for talks with South
01:53 - Source: CNN
Seoul, South Korea CNN  — 

South Korea’s Minister of Unification offered his resignation Wednesday, potentially becoming the latest casualty of the rapidly deteriorating relationship between the two Koreas.

Minister Kim Yeon-chul offered to step down just a day after North Korea razed a building that Seoul and Pyongyang regularly used for dialogue. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has yet to formally accept Kim’s resignation.

Kim told reporters he took “all the responsibility of worsening of inter-Korean relations” and that he was “sorry for not being able to fulfill many Korean people’s demand and hope for peace and prosperity on Korean Peninsula.”

South Korean Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul is questioned by reporters on Tuesday at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea.

The Unification Ministry is the South Korean government body that manage relations with North Korea. Kim joined the ministry last April and had been tasked with jumpstarting inter-Korean talks, which had stalled in the months after three inter-Korean summits in 2018.

Pyongyang has for months voiced displeasure that its foray into diplomacy with South Korea and the United States has not yielded relief from sanctions crippling the North Korean economy.

However, North Korea has framed threats and moves made in the last two weeks as retaliatory. Pyongyang accused Seoul of violating the deal struck by Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, arguing it has not responded sufficiently after a group of North Korean defectors sent anti-North Korea leaflets over their shared border.

During their first summit in April 2018, as part of their attempt to establish “a new era of peace,” Moon and Kim Jong Un agreed to cease “all hostile acts and eliminating their means, including broadcasting through loudspeakers and distribution of leaflets” along their shared border. It’s illegal for average North Koreans to consume information that is not approved by the country’s powerful propaganda machine, and doing so can carry dire consequences.

Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s sister and one of the country’s top political officials, said the leaflets insulted her brother, which is a crime in North Korea, defectors say.

“They dared defame the dignity of our supreme leadership, our Chairman whom we hold most sacred as the central core, and mocked at all our people at the same time,” she said in a statement released Wednesday by North Korean state media. North Korea also aired footage Wednesday on state-run television that appeared to show the liaison office being blown to pieces. The facade of a nearby building was also damaged by the blast.

Experts say it’s possible North Korea is using the leaflet issue to manufacture a crisis in order to gain leverage in any future negotiations, a play it has employed previously in diplomatic talks.

Yoon Do-han, a spokesman for Moon, said Wednesday that South Korea would “no longer endure” North Korea’s “senseless comments and actions” and urged the Kim regime to return to the negotiating table.
“This is a fundamental breach of trust built between the leaders of the two Koreas, and we warn the North that such irrational words and actions will no longer be tolerated,” he said.

“We especially hope the North keeps basic manners in the future.”

CNN’s Yoonjung Seo contributed reporting