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The Phone Calls Between North And South Korea Have So Far Been A Bit Awkward

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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North and South Korea have been chatting on the phone for two days now, but the calls between the two countries — technically still at war — have been a tad awkward.

North and South Korea have spoken a few times since Kim Jong Un suddenly re-opened a dormant hotline between the two Koreas Wednesday, but while the calls represent a diplomatic breakthrough, the “talks” have yet to produce results.

In his New Year’s address Monday, Kim expressed an interest in dialogue with South Korea to improve bilateral relations, as well as North Korean participation in the upcoming Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. South Korea responded positively to the overture, offering to meet North Korea in the Panmunjom truce village on the border next Tuesday.

Within no time at all, the North and South were connected via phone, but the calls have been noticeably lacking in content or substance.

The first call on Wednesday focused on technical issues, and the second call was to simply close out business for the day.

When South Korean officials called into North Korea Thursday morning, no one answered the phone, dampening high spirits. The South has been calling and receiving the same response for two years, since Seoul closed a joint industrial park project run by the two Koreas in the wake of the North’s fourth nuclear test.

The problem was that the South was calling too early due to North Korea’s odd decision a few years ago to set all of its clocks back half an hour. North Korea called back about 30 minutes later, re-establishing a connection.

Asked if the North had anything to report, the North Korean official on the line responded, “No,” adding, “If we have anything to tell you, we will contact you.” The North Korean side then promptly hung up the phone.

North Korea called again Thursday to say nothing but call it a day for bilateral business. While the phone conversations have been rather unproductive, with North Korea failing to comment on the South’s offer to meet, South Korea remains hopeful that the calls will eventually result in a face-to-face meeting.

Another call is expected to take place Friday morning.

The nature of the recent exchanges between the two Koreas appears to suggest that the North is clearly in the driver’s seat and calling all the shots.

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