What is the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)

The Korean demilitarized zone is a 160-mile long strip of land 2.5 wide that separates the Republic of Korea from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. At the center of the area there is a military demarcation line from which the demilitarized zone extends to the 2,200 yards north and south of the demarcation line. The military demarcation line marked the war front during the Korean War. However, outside the area there is a massive concentration of the Korean army both from the north and from the south, making it the heaviest border in the world. The military occupy the regions to suppress any attacks on both sides if they occur.

Chronology

After the Second World War, the failure by the Soviet and US governments to form a united Korean government led to the deepening of the differences between the Koreans of the south and the north, which was aggravated by the division of the Korean peninsula along the parallel 38th. The Republic of Korea (South) was recognized as a legitimate government after the Soviet Union boycotted the elections under UN supervision in 1948. These divisions triggered the Korean war in 1950. After three years of war, the Korean demilitarized zone was established in July 27, 1953, through the Korean armistice agreement between China, North Korea and the United Nations in order to put an end to hostilities between Korean forces. Although the area currently exists in relative peace, tensions are still high.

Joint security area

The Joint Security Area, called Truce Village, is a portion of the Korean demilitarized zone located in the western part of the peninsula within the village of Panmunjom, where diplomatic relations between North and South Korea take place. The area was previously used by the United Nations Command and North Korea as a site for military negotiations. JSA is a neutral zone within which the borders of the forces of North and South Korea move freely. The JSA is guarded by officials from the north and south.

Conflicts

The Korean demilitarized zone is an area aimed at tension where there have been several incidents and clashes between the forces of the South and North Korea. The most intense of these conflicts occurred in an attempted presidential murder at the Blue House in 1968 in the Blue House raid. The attempt was part of the Korean DMZ conflict 1966-1969 which caused the death of hundreds of soldiers on both sides and of the United States. Other conflicts include the Ax 1976 murder incident and the 1984 Matuzok incident.

Four tunnels

Between November 1974 and March 1990, South Korea discovered four tunnels dug in a north-south orientation through the DMZ. The North Korean government has rejected charges of creating underground invasion points claiming that the tunnels were destined for coal mining. However, the tunnels are believed to be a North Korean creation for the military invasion of South Korea as no coal deposits were found. Tourists can visit the first three tunnels from the south through guided tours.

Biodiversity in the DMZ

The destruction of the DMZ during the Korean War made it habitable and led to the formation of a natural habitat for wildlife such as the Amur leopard, the red crowned crane, the Siberian tiger, the Asian black bear, in addition to the 2000 plant species, 70 different mammals and more than 300 bird species. Due to the relative stability and reduced human interference of this unique temperate habitat, some of the rare species find their home in this region. Due to the unique biodiversity, environmentalists have recommended the delimitation of the area as a biosphere reserve.

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