Two phones, two years: How North and South Korea reconnected

At 3.30 p.m. on Wednesday, a phone rang in a room in an uninhabited village in the demilitarized zone separating Nort...

Posted: Jan 4, 2018 1:14 PM
Updated: Jan 4, 2018 1:14 PM

At 3.30 p.m. on Wednesday, a phone rang in a room in an uninhabited village in the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea.

For the first time since February 2016, the North was calling the South.

NEW: North Korea calls South Korea to ensure hotline is stable again Thursday

Latest call brings the total number of calls to five in less than 24 hours

And South Korea answered.

Little is known about the contents of the 20-minute call, which ended at 3:50 p.m. South Korean time (which is half an hour ahead of North Korean time).

The South Korean Ministry of Unification simply said the two sides "checked technical issues of the communication line."

Calls are made using a green handset, marked "North," and received on a red handset, though the colors can be switched if needed. Letters above the computer screen read "South-North Direct Phone" and two clocks show the current time in each country.

After the call ended, officials from the Ministry of Unification -- responsible for "all issues pertaining to inter-Korean relations and unification" -- stayed by the phone, on the off-chance that the North would call again.

And just over two hours later, after darkness had fallen in the village of Panmunjom, they did. At 6:07 p.m. local time, North Korea made contact once more, saying, "Let's call it a day today."

On Thursday, the two sides exchange three more calls.

The start of regular contact?

In the hours before the first call Wednesday, North Korean state media announced that the country's leader Kim Jong Un had given the order to open the line and establish communications.

The trigger appeared to be the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea, where North Korea hopes to have its athletes represented.

The news came as a welcome surprise to South Korea, whose President has long called for dialogue with the North.

The South has been calling the North every day at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. since communications ceased in February 2016 -- and never getting an answer. The same phone was used to receive the calls today and yesterday.

"The restoration of the communication channels means a lot," said Yoon Young-chan, the South Korean presidential press secretary. He said he hoped it would lead to North-South contact being made "on a regular basis."

A village of war and peace

Both ends of the hotline used are located in the border village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the two states. The phones are located just 80 meters apart, on either side of the border, according to the Ministry of Unification.

Despite a constant military presence, Panmunjom is known as a peace village. It was here that the two sides signed an armistice agreement in 1953, ending three years of active combat in the Korean War.

But it was also here that defector Oh Chong Song was shot in November as he fled south by fellow North Korean soldiers, who violated the armistice by firing into the DMZ.

Whether Panmunjom will again enter the history books -- this time as the place where North-South diplomatic relations were renewed -- is still unknown.

Statements from the Unification Ministry provided to CNN indicate that there was no mention of future talks in any of the three phone calls made so far.

But given that South Korea has been calling the North twice a day for the past two years, it's likely that the phone at the northern end of the hotline will continue to ring.

That's if North Korea doesn't call first.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 43170

Reported Deaths: 1548
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin13790791
Ramsey5357237
Dakota278196
Stearns254919
Anoka2477114
Nobles16976
Washington132441
Olmsted131920
Mower9902
Scott9234
Rice8958
Clay62738
Blue Earth6002
Kandiyohi5951
Wright5555
Carver5092
Todd4042
Sherburne3715
Lyon3592
Freeborn3160
Watonwan2720
Steele2661
Benton2433
St. Louis24116
Nicollet21212
Martin1765
Winona15315
Cottonwood1420
Goodhue1428
Le Sueur1421
Otter Tail1211
Crow Wing11612
Pine1140
Chisago1121
McLeod1020
Dodge1000
Carlton960
Unassigned9238
Pipestone904
Polk893
Murray850
Isanti840
Chippewa821
Waseca800
Itasca7612
Douglas750
Morrison701
Becker690
Meeker661
Faribault640
Beltrami580
Jackson580
Sibley582
Pennington540
Brown512
Wabasha440
Mille Lacs402
Fillmore380
Renville373
Rock350
Swift351
Houston320
Lincoln320
Yellow Medicine320
Grant310
Roseau300
Redwood250
Koochiching241
Wilkin233
Cass212
Norman210
Big Stone180
Kanabec181
Wadena180
Aitkin170
Marshall160
Clearwater140
Pope140
Mahnomen131
Hubbard110
Stevens110
Lake90
Traverse80
Lac qui Parle60
Red Lake50
Kittson20
Cook10
Lake of the Woods00

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 35769

Reported Deaths: 756
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk7663185
Woodbury336044
Black Hawk254459
Buena Vista173711
Johnson14938
Dallas142831
Linn141684
Scott112210
Marshall110519
Dubuque101623
Story8808
Pottawattamie84213
Wapello71531
Muscatine69745
Crawford6803
Sioux5150
Tama49029
Webster4395
Wright4021
Louisa36713
Jasper35917
Plymouth3545
Cerro Gordo3451
Warren3371
Dickinson3093
Washington2549
Hamilton2071
Boone1741
Clay1511
Clarke1453
Clinton1441
Allamakee1384
Shelby1210
Mahaska12017
Carroll1171
Franklin1170
Bremer1167
Poweshiek1118
Pocahontas1091
Des Moines1032
Emmet990
Cedar961
Henry933
Hardin920
Cherokee851
Marion850
Floyd842
Guthrie824
Taylor810
Benton781
Monona780
Jones741
Jackson720
Butler702
Osceola700
Sac690
Buchanan661
Calhoun662
Hancock631
Harrison630
Iowa631
Jefferson630
Lyon630
Fayette610
Humboldt611
Delaware571
Madison572
Lee542
Monroe547
Palo Alto530
Mills520
Winneshiek521
Clayton513
Grundy480
Mitchell480
Winnebago460
Davis431
Kossuth430
Union420
Howard370
Lucas354
Chickasaw320
Greene310
Unassigned310
Appanoose293
Cass290
Worth280
Ida240
Keokuk231
Page220
Van Buren211
Adair170
Audubon171
Ringgold161
Montgomery152
Decatur130
Fremont110
Wayne110
Adams80
Rochester
Clear
58° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 58°
Mason City
Clear
60° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 60°
Albert Lea
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 61°
Austin
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 61°
Charles City
Broken Clouds
64° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 64°
Nice couple days ahead, the heat is on by the weekend
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events