To mark the end of our Conflict theme, Andreyna Valera collates this exclusive photo essay, depicting the remarkable stand off on the North Korean border.
Last December, the relationship between North and South Korea was especially tense. Tourists were told the tours around the Demilitarize Zone (DMZ) and Joint Security Area (JSA) could be easily cancelled. These places catch the attention of thousands of views from all over the world every year, attracted by what can be considered the most similar place to hell on Earth.
First thing you are told when you step in the Korean DMZ is that you are not allowed to make eye contact with North Korean soldiers, not either gesticulate towards them to not ‘provoke’ any reaction. There is also a dress code that must be respected: no broken jeans or flip-flops, it can be used by North Korea to confirm one of their many lies about the rest of the world and manipulate saying how poorly the rest of people live that they cannot even dress properly.
An American Marine takes the lead of the tour as soon as you arrive. He makes you to sign this document where it is advised “the possibility of injury or death as a direct result of enemy action”. Although the JSA is a neutral territory, the safety of visitors cannot be guarantee in a hostile enemy act. Afterwards, another American soldier makes a presentation of the Korean War, how the Armistice was signed and the creation of the DMZ. They never sign a peace treaty so technically they are still in conflict.
North and South Korean soldiers stand face to face overlooked by American soldiers, who also impose a strict photograph policy on visitors. A stunning performance for those who visit this location: Panmunjeom. The glass doors at the back of the picture have strange forms that North Korea uses to take pictures of tourists and provoke American soldiers playing with lights and reflections.
American and South Korean soldiers work shoulder to shoulder. There is an important American military base in Itaewon, North Seoul (South Korea). The US also played a decisive role as creating the DMZ as in the Korean War.
The static defensive position that South Korean soldiers keep constantly comes from the Martial arts. All South Korean soldiers have been formed with taekwondo training intensively, due to military service is still mandatory. Representatives from both Koreas meet in this room to negotiate; the north part of the table is for the North of Korea and the south for the South.
A fake town built by North Korean government as a propaganda strategy for worldwide tourists that visit the DMZ. There are many buildings and towers illuminated regardless nobody lives there. Satellites have proved that electricity is a luxury in most of the country.
This town is inhabited. However, there are restraints to take pictures from this point and all pictures must be shoot behind a mark line controlled by South Korean soldiers.
Korean people, from both North and South, leave their desires of union and reconciliation among them represented in those coloured pieces of clothing. The few familiar reunion agreed with North Korea have taken place in this area.
This bridge was used to exchange prisoners after the Armistice in 1953: once the bridge is crossed, there is no way to go back to the other side ever again.