Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Main Street in South Korea - right on the edge of North Korea at theDemilitarised Zone

Day 3 of the Korea-Australia Journalists Exchange takes us to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) at Panmunjeon. It's an hour's bus ride from our hotel in downtown Seoul - and fair to say this has been a highly anticipated trip. I'm at the DMZ with Andrew Tillett of The West Australian, Lucy McNally of ABC News and Patrick Witton on The Big Issue. We're in Korea thanks to the Korea Press Foundation and The Walkley Foundation in Australia.

Inside "Conference Row" on the extreme northern edge of the DMZ. This is inside the Joint Security Area (JSA) which is the only part of the DMZ where North and South forces stand face to face in an uneasy peace. That's a South Korean soldier behind me guarding the exit to the. His opposite number is on the other side. He seems alert but not alarmed - chillingly accustomed to such photo opportunities that, while restricted, are encouraged. Just another day? Maybe not with shots fired between North and South in recent days.

It's a surreal experience as the South Korean guard stands watch without a sign of movement or emotion. Visitors are told not to wave or distract - a relief to these soliders who are more than just a tourist attraction in the world's most militarised flashpoint. 

Check out more about the DMZ on Wikipedia:

From the steps of the southern side. We are told not to cross the yellow line and all photos and filming must be straight ahead within the boundaries. No side shots showing facilities are permitted!

The Bridge of No Return. 

"End of Separation, Beginning of Unification". It's a highly complex issue beyond such slogans, with both North and South advocating a unified Korea - but of course on their own terms.

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