North Korea has reportedly torn down a decades-old monument built to symbolise hopes for the eventual reunification of the two Koreas.
For weeks, a drumbeat of artillery shells and nuclear drones has been streaming out of North Korea as the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, appears increasingly hostile.
Seemingly capturing these rising tensions, North Korea appears to have demolished Pyongyang’s Arch of Reunification, constructed in 2001 by Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il.
An analysis of satellite imagery by media, suggests that the monument was taken down between January 19 and 22.
News stressed that the images are ‘hazy’ at best and one snapshot taken Tuesday by an inter-Korean rail crossing at Kaesong did not clearly show any construction crews – higher-definition footage is needed.
Stretching some 62 metres over the Reunification Highway near the border, the arch was opened to commemorate reunification plans put forward by Kim Il Sung, the current ruler’s grandfather.
It depicted two women, one from North and South Korea, holding a map of a reunified Korea.
But to Kim, this concrete arch was nothing more than an ‘eyesore’, he told the country’s rubber-stamp parliament only days before it was seemingly last seen.
Kim was quoted as saying by the media that the arch’s removal is part of his government’s measures to ‘eliminate such concepts as “reunification”, “reconciliation” and “fellow countrymen” from the national history of our Republic’.
And this includes, he told the Supreme People’s Assembly, amending the constitution to say the South is the North’s ‘primary foe and invariable principal enemy’.
‘Besides, in my view, it is necessary to delete such expressions in the constitution as “northern half” and “independence, peaceful reunification and great national unity”,’ he added.
South Korea’s Ministry of Unification confirmed that officials understand the monument has been demolished.
A web page about the Arch of Unification on Naenara, the North Korean government’s online portal, has also since been removed.
‘It highlights that the Koreans are a homogeneous nation with one territory, the same blood and one language from ancient times and that all the fellow countrymen should turn out in the struggle for national reunification,’ the page once said.
Kim struck a far different tone to this, however, during his speech to government officials.
‘If the Republic of Korea invades our ground territory, territorial air space, or territorial waters by even 0.001mm, it will be considered a provocation of war,’ he said.
Kim called for all channels of north-south communication along the country’s heavily militarised border not far from the arch to be ‘blocked’, including cutting off the railway tracks leading into South Korea.
The Korea Institute for National Unification, a think-tank, said Kim has all but stripped the ‘concept of unity’ from North Korean policy.
By demolishing the Arch of Unification, ‘the history of inter-Korean relations was completely denied’ and the ‘geopolitical risks’ to South Korea will continue to rise, analysts added.