THE TRUCE VILLAGE - PANMUNJOM

THE TRUCE VILLAGE - PANMUNJOM

For the first time in more than two years, delegations from North and South Korea have met for official talks. Their meeting place was "truce village" Panmunjom, the site of the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement in 1953. Since then, Panmunjom has become the only part of the demilitarized zone where North and South Korean soldiers face one another every day, and where foreign dignitaries come to peer into North Korea for themselves.But life in Panmunjom and surrounding villages is remarkably ordinary. Shops exist, kids attend schools and farmers toil the fields — though much of this is done with a backdrop of high tensions and a military presence.There's also a thriving tourist scene. According to, visitors must sign a form that says they understand their visits “will entail entry into a hostile area and the possibility of injury or death."Keep scrolling to take the tour for yourself: 'Peace House' sits on the South Korean side of the truce village Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). This is where talks between North and South took place on January 9.

The six blue and white buildings straddle the demarcation line and are jointly used conference rooms. Over the years, many photos have captured North Korean soldiers looking into these rooms when they're in use by South Korea. On several occasions, North Koreans took photos of the rooms through the windows while they were in use.
Minutes from the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commissions meetings are placed in a mailbox marked KPA (Korean People's Army) in a conference room.These are the tables where the Korean War armistice agreement was signed on July 27, 1953 in Panmunjom.Outside, North Korean workers are employed to sweep the North's compound.They are also hired to tend the North's lawn. Trees line the 'Bridge of No Return' where prisoners of war were able to choose between the North and South by walking either direction after the 1953 agreement. North Korean soldiers walk past a propaganda painting in Panmunjom.

Nearby, South Koreans watch an announcement of a North Korean missile launch on TV inside a store.While students study under a heavy military presence.In Daeseong-dong, the only village where citizens can reside in the DMZ, soldiers regularly attend school graduations.Panmunjom can be reached by train. This is the entrance to Dorasan train station, the northernmost stop on South Korea's railway. While civilian trains don't run to Pyongyang, cross-border trade occurred for a brief time around 2007, and the signs remain.Groups of tourists are allowed into the heavily guarded conference rooms which sit across the Korean border, allowing people to technically enter North Korea.They can pose in front of a giant picture of the DMZ border.Or take photos of the real thing.CCTV shows footage of the third infiltration tunnel, one of four tunnels built by North Korea to send troops quickly and quietly into South Korea. Tourists now visit these.An observation platform lets tourists and foreign dignitaries look into North Korea. What they see is North Korea's propaganda village of Gijungdong.Workers can also be seen in North Korean fields. DMZ souvenirs are available for purchase. And a few kilometers away, a South Korean souvenir shop sells North Korean beer.

It also sells locally produced soy beans. The region is inhabited by a few hundred farmers who grow ginseng, rice, and soy beans. Camp Bonifas is also near Panmunjom. In this 2003 photo, US soldiers watch President George W. Bush's state of the union address. Also near Panmunjom is the Imjingak Peace Park.People regularly leave messages of peace and unity on ribbons at a DMZ fence.But residents are still affected by border issues. In 2015, residents living in another border village just south of the DMZ were evacuated to a shelter after an exchange of fire.Back in Panmunjom, North Korean soldiers directly face South Koreans. This is next to the spot where a North Korean soldier defected across the border in November. North and South Korea spoke on a dedicated phone line at the border village of Panmunjom on January 3, 2018.
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