North Korean and US officials are currently holding talks to still organise a summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un on June 12.
Those officials are meeting in Panmunjom, the site of the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement in 1953 that’s known as the “truce village.”
Since then, Panmunjom has become the only part of the demilitarized zone where soldiers from the two Koreas face one another every day, and where foreign dignitaries come to peer into North Korea for themselves.
But life in Panmunjom and the surrounding villages is remarkably ordinary. People shop, kids attend schools, and farmers till the fields – though mostly with a backdrop of high tensions and a military presence.
There’s also a thriving tourist scene. According to PRI, visitors must sign a form that says they understand it “will entail entry into a hostile area and the possibility of injury or death.”
Here’s what the “truce village” is like.
The “Peace House” sits on the South Korean side of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone, where talks between North Korea and South will take place on Tuesday.
The six blue-and-white buildings, used as conference rooms, straddle the demarcation line.
Over the years, many photos have captured North Korean soldiers looking into these rooms while South Korean officials use them.
On several occasions, North Koreans took photos of the rooms through the windows.
Here’s are minutes from a Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission meeting in a mailbox marked KPA, an abbreviation for the Korean People’s Army, in a conference room.
These are the tables where the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed on July 27, 1953.
Outside, North Korean workers sweep the country’s compound.
They also tend the lawn on North Korea’s side.
Trees line the “Bridge of No Return,” where, after the 1953 agreement, prisoners of war could walk to either of the two Koreas.
Some North Korean propaganda paintings are in Panmunjom.
Here, South Koreans watch an announcement of a North Korean missile launch on TV inside a store.
And students study under a heavy military presence.
In Daeseong-dong, the village in the DMZ where South Korean citizens can reside, soldiers regularly attend school graduations.
Panmunjom can be reached by train. Here’s the entrance to Dorasan Station, the northernmost stop on South Korea’s railway.
While civilian trains don’t run to Pyongyang, there was briefly cross-border trade around 2007, and the signs remain.
Groups of tourists are allowed into the heavily guarded conference rooms across the border, allowing them 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.
Decades ago, North Korea built four tunnels designed to send troops quickly and quietly into South Korea. Tourists now visit these.
Source: New York Times
An observation platform lets tourists and foreign dignitaries look into North Korea.
What they see is North Korea’s so-called propaganda village of Gijungdong.
They can also see workers 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 soybeans. A few hundred farmers in the region also grow ginseng and rice.
Camp Bonifas, a UN Command military post, is also near Panmunjom. In this 2003 photo, US soldiers there 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 border issues still affect residents. In 2015, people in another village just south of the DMZ were evacuated to a shelter after an exchange of fire.
In Panmunjom, North Korean soldiers directly face South Koreans. This is near the spot where a North Korean soldier defected across the border in November.
Source: Business Insider
North Korea and South Korea spoke on a dedicated phone line at Panmunjom for the first time in two years in January.
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