SEOUL, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- The Red Cross communication line between North and South Korea at Panmunjom has reopened after eight months, the South's government said Wednesday.
The facility at the joint truce village was closed by North Korea in May of last year following South Korea's condemnation of the sinking of its warship in which about 50 sailors died.
Yonhap News quoted a South Korean Unification Ministry official as saying North Korea reopened the hotline communication system Wednesday as promised, and officials from both sides made contact for the first time since last May. The Yonhap report said the reopening of the hotline comes as North Korea steps up its efforts for talks with the South to get much-needed aid.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have further escalated after the North Korean shelling of a South Korean island last November in which two marines and two civilians died.
The North has promised to reopen the inter-Korean economic cooperation office in the western border town of Kaesong. South Korea has rejected the offer as "insincere" and demanded that the North first take responsibility for the ship sinking and the island shelling and confirm its commitment to denuclearization.
Separately, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper quoted a South Korean government official as saying no personnel would be sent to the inter-Korean economic cooperation office. Last May, Pyongyang closed the office and expelled eight South Korean officials there.
The official said punitive measures taken against the North after the ship sinking have halted economic cooperation between the two sides.