On May 3rd of this year (2020), North Korean soldiers fired across the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) towards a guard post on the southern side. South Korea says its soldiers then issued a warning broadcast and fired two shots back in return. No one on the southern side was injured.
Did you know that the Korean DMZ is probably the most heavily fortified border in the world?
The Demilitarized Zone was established in 1953 when the Korean War came to end and runs across the Korean peninsula separating the Communist North from the Democratic South. It’s approximately 150 miles long and 2.5 miles wide running along the 38th parallel. An estimated 2 million mines are dispersed in or near the DMZ which is in addition to all the guard posts, fences, barbed wire, tank traps, artillery, combat vehicles, and hundreds of thousands of troops that line the entire border area.
And guess what? This isn’t the first incident to occur there. Oh no. There have been scattered clashes occurring between the two sides since the end of the war which have included helicopters being shot down when they accidentally strayed across the border, engagements on water, and guard posts having firefights against each other.
Panmunjom is a village that straddles the border itself. Here, North Korean and South Korean soldiers stare at each other day in and day out, sometimes with just feet separating them. There are 5 one story buildings, 3 of which are painted United Nations blue, that stand directly on the border line so that half is in the South and half is in the North. These buildings are where delegates can sit down at a table (that is also bisected by the border) for talks. When South Korean soldiers open the door to the North, they do so in pairs. One opens the door while the second holds on to him. They do this because there is genuine fear that North Koreans might try to grab and abduct the first soldier. That is how tense things are.
Considering how dictatorial and ruthless the North Korean regime is, it doesn’t look like there will be any significant easing of tensions at the Korean DMZ anytime soon.