North Korea Sent a Threatening Communiqué to South Korea Via Fax

Nothing says "we're serious about this" like a fax. Or at least that's what officials in Pyongyang seem to think. Yesterday morning, South Korean officials received a fax that warned, ironically, of attacks "without warning." I guess the first one was a freebie.

The ominous message was sparked by protests in Seoul on the second anniversary of Kim Jong-il's death. The Wall Street Journal spoke to a South Korean ministry spokesman who reported the missive's contents, which came in reaction to "extra-large provocations to North Korea's highest dignity taking place in the middle of Seoul." South Korea should beware "resolute punishment"and "a merciless retaliation without warning."

North Korea Sent a Threatening Communiqué to South Korea Via Fax

Protestors in Seoul this week. Image: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images.

Doesn't a fax count as warning? Well, sort of. It turns out that North and South Korea don't ever email with each other. Instead, they rely on three ways of communicating: A physical letter exchange point at the border, a phone line that's routinely disconnected during times of high tension, and the fax machine. The last time a fax like this made news was earlier this year, when North Korean officials sent a fax blaming South Korea for the closure of jointly-run factories along the border.

So the fax machine seems to a serve as a stand-in internet; a way to relay information quickly and, in many cases, make sure the public sees it. As a result, most timely or important messages between the two countries are delivered through a dying technology, whose heyday peaked decades ago—the only mode of communication both sides can agree upon. [Wall Street Journal; QZ]