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Crippled US destroyer damaged by transport ship

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Volcano eruption shuts Bali airport, stranding tens of thousands of tourists

Tens of thousands of travelers remained stranded in Bali on Monday as a volcano hurled gray ash nearly 10,000 feet into the air, canceling hundreds of flights and shuttering the island’s airport.

Mount Agung’s last major eruption occurred in 1963, when it killed roughly 1,100 people.

Among the roughly 59,000 tourists who’d been stuck on Indonesia’s top tourist destination was Derek Du Chesne, an actor from California who’d been treated to a birthday celebration trip there from a new girlfriend.

Cold lava pews out of volcano as Bali braces for eruption 0:51

Du Chesne was supposed to fly out overnight Sunday, he said in an interview, but when the couple arrived at Bali’s Denpasar International Airport at 10 p.m., it “was like a madhouse.”

Outside, there were throngs of drivers hunting for passengers, he said, while inside there were more people than he’d ever seen at an airport. Some of them were crying.

Du Chesne’s flight was rescheduled for Monday afternoon, but when he and his girlfriend returned it was just as chaotic.

“It was just craziness,” he told NBC News by phone. “Everybody was upset because no one could get out of there.”

The earliest he expected to return to Los Angeles was Friday, though he thought that was unlikely.

“The last time this happened, like there [were] weeks before people were able to get out of here,” he said. “I’m just trying not to freak out.”

Related: See the photos: Indonesians flee as volcano erupts

Another traveler, Pamela Bey, was supposed to return on Tuesday morning to the United States, where she works in technology and real estate. The town she was staying in — Ubud — was roughly 30 miles from the volcano and was mostly unaffected by the eruption. Her airline, Air Asia, never sent a cancellation notice, so she only found out about the mass cancellations after talking to friends back home.

“My friends in the U.S. said: ‘Are you okay?’” Bey said. “I was like, ‘What are you guys talking about — am I okay?’ And then I actually got an email from Air Asia saying, ‘time to check in.'”

Erin Burns, of Orland Park, Illinois, had gone to Bali for a wedding. Her return flight on Monday afternoon was canceled, she said, so she was given a discounted rate at the resort where she was staying.

“Some are making the best of it, but you can tell we all really want to get home — or at least have an idea of when we can leave,” she said.

Image: Mount Agung Erupting

Argentine navy says US undersea rescue module arriving in sub search area

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Argentina says a U.S. undersea rescue module is arriving to an area in the South Atlantic where an Argentine submarine went missing 12 days ago with 44 crew members on board.

Navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said Monday that a Norwegian ship carrying the U.S. Navy’s underwater remotely operated vehicle and its pressurized rescue module would arrive to the search zone later in the day.

The navy says an explosion occurred near the time and place where the ARA San Juan sub went missing on Nov. 15.

Experts say the crew only had enough oxygen to last up to 10 days if the sub remained intact but submerged.

The navy says more than a dozen countries are still searching for the sub.

This video grab shows a ship sailing the Argentine Sea as seen from a P8-A Poseidon aircraft of the U.S. Navy Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing that's assisting the Argentine military in its search for the missing submarine ARA San Juan on Nov. 26, 2017.

This video grab shows a ship sailing the Argentine Sea as seen from a P8-A Poseidon aircraft of the U.S. Navy Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing that’s assisting the Argentine military in its search for the missing submarine ARA San Juan on Nov. 26, 2017.

Carlos Reyes/AFP/Getty Images

The German-built diesel-electric submarine set off on a training mission on Nov. 8 from the southernmost port of Ushuaia en route to Mar del Plata.

“Two days before setting sail, there was a check of the whole operating system,” Balbi said at a news conference on Saturday. “The submarine doesn’t sail if that’s not done. If it set off from Ushuaia, it was because it was in condition to do so.”

Balbi said the captain reported on Nov. 15 that there had been an electrical problem in a battery compartment. But he later communicated by satellite phone that the problem had been solved and that he would continue the voyage submerged toward Mar del Plata.

On Monday, Balbi told reporters that a battery short-circuited when water entered the vessel through a snorkel, the Reuters news agency reports.

“They had to isolate the battery and continue to sail underwater toward Mar del Plata, using another battery,” Balbi said, according to Reuters.

Since then, there has been no contact with the San Juan, and no signs of the ship or debris despite an intensive search.

But it was also on Nov. 15 that both the U.S. Navy and the international nuclear test ban monitoring agency detected what appeared to be an undersea explosion in the area where the sub was operating.

Relatives of crew members have suggested that the 33-year-old vessel, which was refitted in 2014, was in poor condition.

Hundreds of people from Mar del Plata gathered outside the naval base on Saturday to express solidarity with relatives of the crew, applauding them and shouting, “Be strong, we are with you.”

Then they joined in singing the national anthem, and many embraced.

The demonstration cheered some.

“We feel supported by the people,” said Zulma de Vallejos, mother of crew member Celso Oscar Vallejos. “I know my son is going to return. I know that he will come back alive. The final word hasn’t been spoken.”

© 2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Pentagon ‘taking a look’ at halting weapons for Syrian Kurds as Turkey presses ban

The Defense Department on Monday said it is reviewing the process it uses to provide equipment and weapons to Kurdish fighters with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) but has not halted sending weapons.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Robert Manning told reporters that the department is “reviewing pending adjustments to the military support provided to our Kurdish partners in as much as the military requirements of our defeat-[Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] and stabilization efforts will allow us to prevent ISIS from returning.”

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Turkey’s foreign minister said Friday that President Trump committed to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the United States would no longer supply arms to Syrian Kurdish fighters.

Turkey considers the SDF Kurds, known as the YPG, to be an extension of outlawed Kurdish insurgents within its country, the Kurdistan Workers Party.

“Mr. Trump clearly stated that he had given clear instructions and that the YPG won’t be given arms, and that this nonsense should have ended a long time ago,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a news conference last week.

The White House later released a statement that confirmed the topic was touched on but would not commit to a full-on ban.

“Consistent with our previous policy, President Trump also informed President Erdogan of pending adjustments to the military support provided to our partners on the ground in Syria, now that the battle of Raqqa is complete and we are progressing into a stabilization phase to ensure that ISIS cannot return,” the White House statement read.

The U.S. military in May began providing the Kurds with equipment and weapons to aid in the SDF fight against ISIS after Trump signed off on the plan to help retake the Syrian city of Raqqa.

When asked about a potential weapons halt, Manning said the Pentagon had not yet implemented such a measure and is only “taking a look at it right now.”

“We’ve been clear with Turkey that weapons provided to the Syrian Democratic Forces — which include Kurdish elements of the SDF — would be limited, mission specific, and provided incrementally to achieve our objectives, and those objectives are targeting ISIS,” Manning said.

Challenger holds surprise lead in Honduras presidential vote

by: FREDDY CUEVAS and CHRISTOPHER SHERMAN, Associated Press Updated:

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) – The main challenger to Honduras’ president held an unexpected lead Monday in early election returns, but the release of updated results essentially ground to a halt and both sides claimed victory while rallying supporters to the streets.

The country’s electoral court reported in the evening that opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla had about 45.2 percent of the vote to 40.2 for conservative President Juan Orlando Hernandez, with a hair under 58 percent of the ballots counted. That was only marginally different from the previous update around 2 a.m., when 57 percent had been tabulated.

Hernandez, an ally of the U.S., had gone into the election predicted to win based on his popularity for fighting crime, but his party also drew heavy criticism for getting a court to override a constitutional ban on consecutive presidential terms. Corruption cases also tainted the administration.

Turnout in Sunday’s vote appeared to be heavy across the country, with relatively minor irregularities reported.

The electoral court’s slowness in updating returns after announcing the initial partial results left many asking whether attempts were being made to change the outcome.

Court president David Matamoros announced that all the votes should be tallied by midday Thursday. He said the tribunal could not give results until it had all of the votes, but did not explain why partial results were announced publicly and then not updated.

Julio Navarro, a sociologist and political analyst in Tegucigalpa, said the electoral court “keeps failing us.”

“Last night it promised official results early and didn’t give them to us until dawn and still hasn’t offered more information,” Navarro said.

Absent an official outcome, Nasralla led jubilant, flag-waving supporters in chants of “Yes, we did!”

“There is no way to reverse this result,” Nasralla said. “I am the new president of Honduras. … We defeated the government’s fraud.”

Reynaldo Sanchez, president of the ruling National Party, sent a recorded message to members saying it was time “to prepare our people to defend the triumph in the streets.” The party’s verified Twitter account, meanwhile, trumpeted “4 more years” and a “total victory” for Hernandez.

The president called for his own backers to be patient and await a final result, saying, “We are doing well.”

“May there be peace, tranquility, and may there be no problems,” said Luis Lopez, a Honduran voter. “May he who wins win, and may he who loses acknowledge that he lost. That is what we want.”

The Electoral Observation Coalition N-26, a nonpartisan civil society group, expressed concern.

“The lack of official data generates unnecessary speculation in the population, is unsettling and does not favor the transparency and legitimacy of the process,” the group said.

Manuel Orozco, a senior fellow with the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, said it would be embarrassing for the government to back away from the preliminary results.

“The international community has been working with them. They all say that the election process, the election itself seemed to be clean and not violent,” he said. “It would really be very surprising that (Hernandez) could win with the vote from some of the rural communities. If anything I think they are probably discussing how to present the results.”

Nasralla, a 64-year-old sportscaster and one of the country’s best-known television personalities, was making his second bid for the presidency. Although he has a reputation as conservative, he ran as the candidate of the Alliance Against Dictatorship, a coalition formed with the leftist party of former President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted by a military coup in 2009.

Experts said that should Nasralla prevail, forming a coalition government with Zelaya’s party could be complicated.

“There will be serious problems in the future, and it is likely that Zelaya will win (those disagreements) because of his broad political experience,” Navarro said.

The alliance campaigned on eradicating corruption and bringing in a new economic model, but offered few details beyond its interest in moving away from privatization and other free-market economic policies.

The preliminary result “suggests Hondurans are more unhappy than we might have expected with the corruption of this government and some of the human rights issues,” said Geoff Thale, vice president for programs at WOLA, a Washington-based nonprofit monitoring rights in Latin America.

Honduras has an anti-corruption mission backed by the Organization of American States, which has worked for more than a year to help strengthen the country’s crime-fighting institutions. But Nasralla said he wants a system more like that in Guatemala, where a U.N.-supported commission has worked with local prosecutors for more than a decade to pursue corruption cases that have even reached the presidential office.

Nasralla also vowed to continue extraditing drug traffickers, a widely popular policy.

Hernandez built his support largely on a drop in violence in this impoverished Central American country. The National Autonomous University says the homicide rate has fallen from a dizzying high of 91.6 per 100,000 people in 2001 to 59 as of the most recent statistics – a remarkable decrease, though even at the current rate Honduras remains one of the deadliest places in the world.

But corruption and drug trafficking allegations cast a shadow over Hernandez’s government.

A convicted trafficker testified in a New York courtroom this year that he met with the president’s brother to get Honduras’ government to pay its debts to a company that the trafficker’s cartel used to launder money. Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, ex-leader of the gang known as the Cachiros, testified that Antonio Hernandez asked him for a bribe in exchange for government contracts, an allegation the brother has denied.

In September the son of former President Porfirio Lobo, of Hernandez’s party, was sentenced in New York to 24 years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiring with traffickers and Honduran police to smuggle cocaine to the United States.

___

Associated Press writer Freddy Cuevas reported this story in Tegucigalpa and AP writer Christopher Sherman reported from Mexico City.

Trump Creating a New Cold War? North Korea, Russia, Syria and Cuba Now Working Together Against the US

Syria and North Korea, two leading opponents of U.S. foreign policy considered sponsors of terrorism by the State Department, have gotten increasingly close as an international axis opposed to Washington and its allies grew more influential across the globe.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un, both of whom assumed power after their fathers’ deaths, have found themselves targets of President Donald Trump’s foreign policy in two crucial arenas—the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East. Since the U.S. leader made the unprecedented step to strike Syria’s military over chemical weapons accusations in April and hours later threatened to attack North Korea amid reports of an upcoming nuclear weapons test, the two nations have relied on their historic Cold War ties. 

Related: War in Syria: Assad thanks Iran and North Korea for help in letters to two supreme leaders opposed to U.S.

A recent meeting between North Korea’s ambassador Jang Myong Ho and Syrian Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Rima al-Qadiri showcased a rare instance of Pyongyang making public its involvement in the Middle East. “Minister al-Qadiri said that the Syrian people highly appreciate the stances of DPRK’s people in supporting Syria, mainly during the reconstruction stage, highlighting the importance of benefiting from the highly specialized expertise of the Korean side,” the official Syrian Arab News Agency reported Wednesday, using an acronym for North Korea’s official title—the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “In turn, the Ambassador expressed his country’s readiness to contribute to the reconstruction of Syria with its expertise and companies specialized in decor and construction,” the state-run outlet added.

GettyImages-486080692 A young woman holds a North Korean flag during the inauguration ceremony of a park in the Syrian capital Damascus to honor North Korea’s founding father Kim Il-Sung on August 31, 2015. North Korea and Syria have bonded over what they perceive to be U.S. imperialist aggression against their governments. AFP/Getty Images

The meeting came days after North Korea’s own government-controlled Korean Central News Agency reported that Assad sent Kim a response letter after the latter congratulated his Syrian counterpart on the 47th anniversary of the Corrective Movement that placed his father, Hafez al-Assad, in power in 1970. After wishing the best for Kim, Assad said he reiterated his “will to consolidate the ties of friendship and cooperation between the two countries in line with the interests and wellbeing of their friendly peoples.”

Shortly after Hafez al-Assad’s military coup, North Korea sent fighters to assist in the Syria and Egypt-led Arab battles with Israel during the 1972 Yom Kippur War and has positioned itself against Israel, which it viewed as a U.S.-backed “imperial state.” When the younger Assad assumed the Syrian leadership in 2000, North Korea allegedly helped him build a nuclear reactor, which was later destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in 2007 and the U.N. has also accused North Korea of helping Syria develop chemical weapons. Both Syria and North Korea have denied such collaborations.

Since 2011, the year that Kim took power in his country and Assad began to lose control of his amid a nationwide uprising, the fortunes of both leaders have improved. North Korea quickly backed Assad, joining Russia and Iran in condemning what they considered a plot sponsored by the West and its Gulf Arab allies. While Syria’s pro-Saudi Arabia opposition accused North Korea of sending troops to back Assad last year, it was Russia’s 2015 intervention that helped turn the tides against rebels and jihadis. Earlier this month, Syria and its allies declared victory over one of their leading opponents, the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), and Assad emerged as the most powerful faction in the lengthy conflict.

This same year, North Korea successfully launched its first intercontinental ballistic missiles and conducted its sixth nuclear weapons test, a hydrogen bomb by far more powerful than all of its previous tests combined. Experts have said that nuclear-armed North Korea’s military advancements and a resurgent Syrian military backed by Russia and Iran present serious threats to Trump’s plans for the Middle East.

RTRXJ84 Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (2L) reviews the honor guard with North Korea’s Kim Yong Nam, President of the Presidium of the legislative Supreme People’s Assembly (R), upon his arrival in Damascus, July 16, 2002. Syria and North Korea have also boosted ties with other traditional foes of U.S. foreign policy, including Cuba, Iran and Russia. Syrian Arab News Agency/Reuters

“North Korea’s decades-old military alliance with the Assad regime is stoking fears inside the Trump administration that Kim Jong Un is not only profiting from Syria’s six-year war, but also learning from it,” ex-reporter Jay Solomon wrote earlier this month for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a pro-Israel think tank where he has served as visiting fellow since June, in a report cited Monday by CNBC.

Russia and Iran’s victories in Syria have not only helped bolster a multinational “Axis of Resistance” that has shifted alliances in the strategic region, they have also intervened in the nuclear crisis between North Korea and the U.S. While Russia too does not recognize North Korea’s self-proclaimed right to develop and possess nuclear weapons as a deterrence for a U.S. invasion, Moscow has used its enhanced diplomatic clout to assert that U.S. military action “is not an option,” despite Trump’s threats to use it against Kim’s government. Trump has also alleged that North Korea was working with fellow U.S.-designated state sponsor of terrorism, Iran, to develop ballistic missile technology.

Meanwhile, another major Cold War player was seeking to rekindle ties with forces aligned against the U.S. Like Iran, Cuba was approached by the administration of President Barack Obama for historical talks that claimed several successes that have since been overturned by Trump. With little room for negotiation with the U.S., the communist island in Florida.’s backyard has sought to rekindle relations with Russia, according to Deutsche Welle, and has stood firmly behind Syria and North Korea. North Korean and Cuban officials met last week to strengthen ties. Both countries suffer from harsh U.S. economic sanctions intended to destabilize their respective governments.

A ‘ghost ship’ washed ashore in Japan, and clues point to North Korean defectors


This battered wooden boat containing eight bodies was found on a beach in Oga, part of Japan’s Akita prefecture. Dozens of North Korean fishing vessels wash up on Japan’s coast each year. Sometimes the occupants have died at sea, a phenomenon local media refer to as “ghost ships.” (Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images)

The bodies had been drifting in the Sea of Japan for so long that only bones remained.

But investigators in face masks and coveralls found clues inside the battered wooden craft that pointed to its origin: an empty cigarette pack of a brand popular in North Korea and life jackets with Korean lettering that were never used.

Officials believe the people aboard the latest “ghost ship” to wash up on the coast of Japan may have been trying to defect from the reclusive country.

It’s unclear how long those who were aboard had been there or when they died. Ocean currents off the coast of Japan shift and the waters get choppy in winter months, routinely washing ships ashore. More than 40 boats full of dead people have washed up this year, according to Sky News. In 2016, the number was 66.

Some are undoubtedly fishing boats whose crews met a tragic fate, but the vessel found Monday did not appear to be one of them.

The 23-foot boat was found in Akita Prefecture in northern Japan, according to Kyodo News, after a 68-year-old woman notified authorities about a dilapidated, drifting vessel.

“I was surprised to see the boat in such a bad condition,” she told the news organization.

Later, she said, she watched as authorities used stretchers to carry bodies off the boat.

Some 1,000 people successfully defect from North Korea each year, and about 30,000 have fled to South Korea since the end of the Korean War in 1953. They tell stories of sometimes violent reprisals for political speech, being banished to labor camps for watching American movies and old-fashioned starvation.

But a silent, unknown number never survive the escape attempts, dying during desperate journeys to South Korea or China or Japan.

Others are captured and face severe punishment for trying to leave.

According to Vice, “the North Korean penal code states that defectors face two years of hard labor if they are caught crossing the border,” though punishments can vary.

Radio Free Asia reported that North Korean officials warned that citizens living near the Chinese border who are caught helping people defect would be put to death — and the punishments wouldn’t stop there. Family members of violators can be imprisoned or banished to remote regions of North Korea.

Still, North Koreans defect by the hundreds. This month, the world was riveted by the story of a North Korean soldier who escaped in dramatic fashion a few weeks ago — driving a Jeep southward until it got stuck in a ditch, then sprinting across the demilitarized zone.

His former comrades shot at him with pistols and assault rifles, putting at least five bullets into him.

South Korean soldiers found him in a pile of leaves and dragged him to safety, and he was flown to a hospital via helicopter.

Even before they learned his name, doctors said his condition told some of his story, according to The Washington Post’s Marwa Eltagouri. He had hepatitis B and tuberculosis, and parasitic worms nearly a foot long in his intestines.

Doctors say the worms point to the health and humanitarian crises inside the closed borders of North Korea.

Since then he has been recovering — and has become a source of demilitarized zone trolling.

South Korean soldiers have been broadcasting details about the defector’s improving medical condition across the demilitarized zone, according to Newsweek.

The speakers they use, which at one point were used to encourage soldiers to defect, can apparently be heard more than a dozen miles away.

“The news about an elite soldier like a JSA guard having fled in a hail of bullets will have a significant psychological impact on North Korean border guards,” said a military spokesman quoted in the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo.

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S. Korea warns North not to repeat armistice violation

PANMUNJOM (South Korea) • North Korea violated an armistice agreement with South Korea earlier this month, when its soldiers shot and wounded a North Korean soldier as he defected across the border, and it must not do so again, South Korea’s defence minister said yesterday.

The defector, who is identified only by his surname Oh, was critically wounded but has been recovering in a hospital in South Korea.

The incident comes at a time of heightened tension between North Korea and the international community over its nuclear weapons programme, but the North has not publicly responded to the defection at the sensitive border.

South Korean Minister of Defence Song Young Moo issued his warning to the North while on a visit to the border. He also commended the South Korean soldiers at a Joint Security Area (JSA), in the so-called Truce Village of Panmunjom in the demilitarised zone, for rescuing the defector.

A North Korean border guard briefly crossed the border in the chase for the defector on Nov 13, a video released by the United Nations Command in Seoul showed, a violation of the ceasefire accord between North and South at the end of the 1950-1953 Korean War.

“Shooting towards the South at a defecting person, that’s a violation of the armistice agreement,” Mr Song said.

“Crossing the military demarcation line, a violation. Carrying automatic rifles (in the JSA), another violation,” he added as he stood near where South Korean soldiers had found Mr Oh, bleeding from his wounds.”North Korea should be informed that this sort of thing should never occur again.”

Since the defection, North Korea has reportedly replaced guards stationed there. Soldiers have fortified a section of the area seen aimed at blocking any more defections by digging a trench and planting trees.

During the visit, South Korean military officials pointed out to Mr Song two bullet holes in a metal wall on a South Korean building, from the shots fired by the North at Mr Oh as he ran.

After inspecting the site yesterday, Mr Song met the troops stationed there for lunch and praised them for acting “promptly and appropriately”.

Mr Oh has undergone several operations in hospital to remove bullets. Lead surgeon Lee Cook Jong said that the patient suffers from nightmares about being returned to the North.

In South Korea, six soldiers, three South Korean and three American, were given awards by the United States Forces Korea last week in recognition for their efforts in rescuing the defector.

South Korea has also been broadcasting news of the soldier’s defection towards North Korea via loudspeakers, Yonhap news agency reported.

REUTERS

South Korea’s loudspeakers blast North Korea with word of defecting soldier’s ill health

South Korea’s high-decibel loudspeakers on the border with longtime foe North Korea have at times blasted messages intended to inform, agitate, or taunt people on the other side.

The nation’s latest blaring border announcement says that one of communist North Korea’s soldiers defected two weeks ago in a daring afternoon escape at the most sensitive and closely monitored section of the 150-mile border separating the two countries.

The messages proclaim that the soldier — who was shot at least four times as he dashed over a military demarcation line and has been treated at a hospital near Seoul — is expected to recover from his injuries, according to South Korean military officials. The sound clips also say the soldier suffered from life-threatening malnutrition.

Officials said that while treating his gunshot wounds, doctors discovered that the soldier, 24, suffered from tuberculosis, hepatitis B and parasitic worms. After days in intensive care, the soldier — whose family name is Oh — was to be moved to a general recovery room.

Word of Oh’s ill health could be an especially demoralizing message to North Korea’s front-line troops and others within earshot of the speakers. In the recent past, the democratic nation’s speakers have mostly broadcast lighter content, such as South Korean pop music.

“It’s a relatively savvy move by whoever is programming the loudspeaker content, to incorporate that,” said Nat Kretchun, deputy director at the Open Technology Fund, a U.S. government-backed group supporting free expression. “Certainly, that is a message that forward-deployed troops on the [Demilitarized Zone] will know is true and also one that will probably hit home.”

Korea was divided when Japan’s control over the country ceased at the end of World War II in 1945. The messages via speakers began years after the 1953 armistice between the two nations that halted the three-year-long Korean War.

The two countries still share a common alphabet and a largely similar spoken language, though Western-influenced words now permeate the South Korean vocabulary.