The deterioration of relations between North Korea and its southern neighbour has been in the news of late. The clearest manifestation of this was the destruction of an inter-Korean liaison office in Kaeshon, a border town in North Korea.

This move by Kim Jong Un's regime was part of a series of developments which have brought the two states of a once-united country into renewed conflict. Numerous threats as well as verbal barbs have been issued from the North Korean side, especially from Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of the country's leader.

Now, as per an interesting claim made by Russia's ambassador to the country, what triggered this aggression was the crude and lewd depiction of Kim Jong Un's wife Ri Sol-ju in the leaflets that were air dropped into the country's territory by defectors located in South Korea.

Ri Sol-ju
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (2nd L) and wife Ri Sol Ju (L) in a file phote Reuters

These leaflets, which carried sharp criticism of the Communist regime, were attached to balloons and released from across the border. Apparently, the way North Korea's first lady was depicted was intolerable for the leader.

"The leaflets bore a special kind of dirty, insulting propaganda, aimed at the leader's spouse," Alexander Matsegora, Russian envoy in Pyongyang told TASS, a news agency of his country. The ambassador said that there were photoshopped images of Ri Sol-ju which were crafted "in such a low-grade way" that they were "the last straw" for the Hermit Kingdom's leadership.

While there is yet to be a confirmation of this from the reclusive and inscrutable regime of the North, the invective that has been used by Kim Yo Jong suggests that the issue may have become personal.

Kim Yo Jong
Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo Jong has been very vocal against South Korea Twitter/Scott Dawson

History of the latest discord

While the South Korean regime wasn't directly responsible for the dropping of the leaflets within its sibling country's border, they didn't prevent the action either. This invoked a strong response form the North and the eventual destruction of the liaison office.

This office was set up in 2018 when there appeared to be a thaw in the relations between the two countries. The leaders of the two countries had met and shared a handshake at the boundary line dividing the peninsula. The two men even crossed the boundary momentarily.

However, sensitive issues such as South Korea's military excercises with USA have prevented the two diametrically-opposed nations from making further progress. The arrival of Kim Jong Un's sister on the big stage of her country's politics is also seen as one of the factors in the ratcheting up of the rhetoric.

As of now, the two nations are back to a daggers-drawn situation. With Russia being one of the few countries sympathetic to the North and the Americans firmly in the corner of the South, the escalating tensions have wider geopolitical significance.