Summary of This Week’s Inter-Korean News: Tensions and Responses

Incheon, Seoul - This week's inter-Korean news highlighted heightened tensions and significant administrative developments between South and North Korea.

According to Yonhap News Agency, civilians on the western border islands of Yeonpyeong and Baengnyeong were instructed to evacuate to shelters on Friday due to North Korea firing hundreds of artillery shells off its west coast. The evacuation orders on Yeonpyeong were issued at 12:02 p.m. and again at 12:30 p.m., following a request from the South Korean military. This event emanated from the Ongjin County office in the western port city of Incheon.

In Seoul, the unification ministry announced on Thursday its decision to dissolve the foundation responsible for the now-closed joint industrial complex in North Korea's border city of Kaesong. This decision comes almost eight years after South Korea shut down the industrial complex following North Korea's nuclear test and long-range missile launch, marking a significant shift amid the current frosty inter-Korean relations.

Furthermore, the unification ministry accused North Korea of trying to divide South Korean society with threats and unjust criticisms in the run-up to the general elections in April. This statement was made against the backdrop of increasing verbal threats from North Korea and its leader Kim Jong-un, who recently declared the futility of reconciliation and unification efforts with South Korea.

The unification ministry also reported the activation of a comprehensive data system aimed at better supporting North Korean defectors facing difficulties. Launched on Tuesday, the system grants officials from relevant organizations, including civic support groups, access to data indicating potential crises among defector households.

Finally, in a New Year's Day message, Defense Minister Shin Won-sik warned North Korea that any provocative actions threatening South Korea would lead to its own destruction. Shin's comments followed Kim Jong-un's characterization of inter-Korean relations as antagonistic and his call for heightened preparations against South Korea.

These developments underscore the ongoing complexities and challenges in inter-Korean relations, marked by increased military activity, diplomatic shifts, and continuous efforts to manage defector welfare.

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