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South Korea: South Panmunjom

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South Panmunjom > South Korea > Asia

[Visited: February 1991]

A little under 60 kilometres north of Seoul, one can find the truce village of Panmunjom in the middle of the DMZ, the Demilitarized Zone. It is here that possible reunification is discussed, it is here that the actual borders meet, it is here that tunnels were found through which it was believed that North Korea could invade the South. It will be probably here that at one moment in the future decision on reunification will be taken, and it will be this place that will carry the strange sensation of a formerly, temporarily divided country like East and West Germany. It was here, in 1991, that I wanted to go on my first visit to Korea.

Picture of South Panmunjom (South Korea): Panmunjom Border

On a cold, but clear winter day I took a tour North, as there is no other way for a normal civilian to arrive at Panmunjom. There was some propaganda, which could be expected, but to me this made the tour just more interesting. We saw the flags of the nations who fought alongside the South Koreans against the North, after North Korea ("created" at the end of World War II) crossed the 38th parallel in 1950. It was a historical action, because it was the first one endorsed by the UN which had only been created 5 years before. The end of the war was, that the border was again established at around the 38th parallel in 1953. It had only cost somewhere near 2 million lives - one of the clearest cases of a useless war, if ever a useful one has been fought.

Picture of South Panmunjom (South Korea): Panmunjom Border

Still now, the tension between the countries is almost tangible at the border. It is strange to be able to look into a country that, at least from this side, is impossible to visit (this, at least, was possibile in Berlin!). You are allowed a walk around the negotiating table, in which the microphone line is the exact border, and the parties sit around the table accordingly. Instead of entering the North, you are ushered into one of the tunnels to prove that the North Koreans are still looking for trouble. Truly amazing site, that does not make one happy.

Picture of South Panmunjom (South Korea): Panmunjom Border/DMZ zone with the tallest flagpole in a distance
Picture of South Panmunjom (South Korea): Monument commemorating the war correspondents killed in the Korean War
Picture of South Panmunjom (South Korea): Korean War monument at Panmunjom, on the South Korean side

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