Map Source: Wikipedia
The Korean war started on June 25, 1950 and ended in 1953 with the division of Korea into the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK, informally North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (ROK, informally South Korea).
At the end of the war, in the ceasefire of July 27, 1953, a demilitarized zone was created crossing the 38th parallel and cutting Korea roughly into half. It is 155 miles (248 km) long and approximately 2.5 miles (4 km) wide, and is the most heavily militarized border in the world.My mom and her friends were taken on an educational trip to the DMZ on the 5th of August 2009. They were instructed beforehand to dress appropriately, i.e. formal wear and had to submit photocopies of their passports for approval from the government. Once they reached Camp Bonifas they had to sit through a presentation about the DMZ and had to sign a release that stated that their visit to the JSA at Panmunjom "will entail entry into a hostile area and possibility of injury or death as a direct result of enemy action." The release prohibits fraternization, as well as speaking or associating with the North Korean soldiers, as well as pointing or making gestures or expressions and also states that one has to remain in a group at all times. They were given 3 minutes to take pictures at this site and as you can see, there was a mad scramble to take as many pictures as possible. After signing the solemn release form, everyone was a bit apprehensive about being caught in a possible crossfire. However, their fears proved to be unfounded, because they later learnt that co-incidentally President Bill Clinton was in North Korea that same day to negotiate the freedom of two American journalists held captive by North Korea.The picture above is of the UN Joint Security Area (JSA) where all negotiations between North Korea and the United Nations Command or South Korea since 1953 have been held.The MDL (Military Demarcation Line) goes through the conference rooms and down the middle of the conference table.Technically speaking, the gentleman from Algeria, Ameur, is on the South Korean side, whereas my mom and her friends, Jessica from El Salvador and Nguyen Linh Huong from Vietnam, are on the North Korean side.Located in the Joint Security Area (JSA), the so-called "Bridge of No Return" crosses the MDL between North Korea and South Korea. It was used for prisoner exchanges at the end of the Korean War in 1953 and once the prisoners crossed over they had no choice of ever returning back.Both North and South Korea maintain peace villages in sight of each others side of the DMZ. In the South, Daeseong-dong (대성동) village and in the North, Kijong-dong village (기정동). In the picture above, you can see the tallest flagpole in the world, located in the North Korean Kijong-dong village, which measures 160 meters (525 ft). Daeseong-dong (대성동) village is the only village that is located inside the DMZ. To be an inhabitant of the Daeseong-dong village, you have to be a direct descendant of the people who owned the land before the Korean war. The inhabitants are given ROK citizenship and are exempt from taxation and military service. However, they have to work 240 nights per year in the village to maintain their residency and have an 11 p.m. curfew. Since photography was only permitted in some designated places, this picture was taken on the way to Camp Bonifas. At the end of the trip they stopped over for some souvenirs at the gift shop. That is my mom’s friend, Hana from Malaysia.
Although the DMZ is a zone that reminds us all about the scars of war. On the lighter side, here is a music video that gives a new twist to the DMZ.
For more information on the DMZ tour you can visit this website -http://www.tourdmz.com/