A belligerent message from North Korea on Monday proved mere bluster when it emerged that the communication lines the North threatened to cut off have been down since last year.
In its first message to South Korea after leader Kim Jong-il returned from China, the North threatened to cut off military communication lines along the east coast, but they have been down since a wildfire in Goseong, Gangwon Province in December.
Since the three copper cables were cut off, "we've called on the North several times to repair them, but there has been no response," a Unification Ministry official said Tuesday.
The South uses the military communications lines on the west coast to give the North lists of rotating staff traveling to the Mt. Kumgang resort area every Wednesday.
After Monday's message, which also threatened unspecified retaliation for South Korean attempts at psychological warfare, the ministry is curious to see what the North's reaction to this week's list will be.
About 14 South Korean staffers are staying at Mt. Kumgang to maintain tourist facilities there.
Experts say Monday's message was probably a shot before the bow, since it threatened to cut off only the lines that are already down while leaving the ones used for communication about Mt.Kumgang and the profitable Kaesong Industrial Complex intact.
The North makes US$50 million in hard cash from workers' wages per year at the Kaesong industrial park. When inter-Korean military talks came to a rupture in February last year, the North said it "felt no need to associate with" the South, but soon afterward launched another charm offensive.