North korean soldiers in Panmunjom

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Panmunjon is a symbol of the division of Korea, and a relic of the cold war. The north and south korean border is considered as the most dangerous one in the world, where any single incident could have dramatic consequences.

The actual border can be seen on the top of the picture, the wide way in sand is still in the north korean side, while the one in gravels is in the south korean side. The blue houses on the borders have two main doors: one in each side of the border. When the relationship between the two countries is soothed, it can be possible for visitors to enter in one of these house and cross the border inside. At that moment, soldiers will enter the room and lock the opposit door and a guard will make sure that no one will try to open it. Visit in these rooms dont exceed few minutes.

Soldiers in both sides are carefully selected: Taekwondo black belts for south koreans  and ideologically convinced soldiers for north koreans. Some rules are still officially followed by both parties: no rifles authorized, only light weapons and a phone line can be used at any time by both side in case of emergency.

Most of the incidents which occured in Panmunjom came mainly from the north korean side, and like in Berlin during the cold war, several soldiers tried to cross the border. In 2013, a north korean soldier killed his patrol’s members and succeed to join a south korean outpost to finally surrender. To avoid such treason, north korean soldiers are never alone on the border, and always at least by two, controlling each other. Any deserter will also have to be ready to sacrify his family as the regime makes responsible the 3 last generations of a family to the crimes of any north korean citizen who would betray the country.

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