After it was reported that North and South Korea shared rocket fire, the border town of Yeoncheon has been evacuated. Eighty residents in total have been evacuated, and the South Korean government has urged the remaining residents to be vigilant. Although this is a temporary escalation, the ongoing struggle between these two sides is unsurprising, given their history since the fragile truce via the Korean Armistice Agreement in 1954 which did not officially end the war, but ended hostilities. On this most recent crises, the South Korean military is on the alert.
“Our military has stepped up monitoring and is closely watching North Korean military movements.”
(5th LD) Two Koreas exchange shells over western border http://t.co/eVlP0IM86C
— Yonhap News Agency (@YonhapNews) August 20, 2015
The reason for North Korea’s most recent escalation has been reported as the result of South Korea using loudspeakers in Yeoncheon to broadcast anti-Kim Jong-un propaganda. The shelling was reported at beginning at 15:52 Yeoncheon local time. South Korea regularly informs the citizens of North Korea through various methods, including balloon leaflet droppings, of outside news regarding the North Korean regime, which restricts access to the internet and outside news sources.
Over the last year, North and South Korea have been engaged in three major skirmishes. According to ABC News, the first was October 10, 2014, when North Korea was responding to South Korean propaganda balloons launched from Paju. After North Korea fired on the balloons with what some people saw as disproportionate force, South Korea fired back.
On August 4, 2015, landmines allegedly planted by North Korea in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), wounded two South Korean soldiers near a ROK guard post, the New York Times reports. South Korean Kim Jin Moon (Institute for Defense Analyses), blamed members of the General Bureau of Reconnaissance who were allegedly not being instructed by Kim Jong-un, but nevertheless wanted to demonstrate loyalty to the regime.
Referring generally to North Korea’s disproportionate actions, Koo Hong-mo, director of operations of the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff recently gave a stern warning to North Korea.
“As previously warned on many occasions, our military will make North Korea pay the equally pitiless penalty for their provocations.”
Despite these escalations and the evacuation of Yeoncheon, the South has not apologised for returning to its practise of menacing North Korea with loudspeakers, a tactic it claims is a peaceful way to make its point that North Korea is corrupt and harms its people.
Tensions are also made worse by recent U.S. and South Korean military exercises aimed at preemptive action against the North Korean regime. These take place every year. The South Korean Workers’ Party Newspaper makes no apologies for these exercises.
“The whole course of Key Resolve and Foal Eagle is aimed to occupy the DPRK through preemptive strikes.”
And with neither South nor North Korea willing to step down its rhetoric, this event will most certainly not be the last.
[Images via Hong Hae-in/Yonhap via AP and EPA]