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Although the Korean War never officially ended, organized tours are allowed to the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom.  Korean tourists are not allowed, but foreigners can visit and even step a few feet into the North Korean sector.  The South Korean and US troops here are especially selected for this duty and are always on the lookout for trouble.

In 1976, two US Army officers were killed by North Korean troops in the "Axe Murder" tree trimming incident.  Three days later, US troops cut the tree down as B-52 circled, ready to nuke the North if provoked.  Later, in the 1980s, a firefight erupted in the UN courtyard as North Korean troops pursued a defecting Soviet diplomat.

A limited number of civilians from both sides are allowed to live in the area.  A handful of South Korean farmers accept sever limitations on their movements to own relatively large tracts of land and earn around $80,000 per year growing rice.  The North Koreans have built a propaganda village which supposedly shows the superiority of the North, although it is thought that no one actually lives there.  At some point the governments of North and South began competeing to erect increasingly taller flag poles to display their respective flags.  The South eventually gave up, leaving the North the "winners."  The Communist government of the North fails to feed its own people but can boast the world's tallest flagpole.  The fabric alone weighs 600 pounds.

Check out the panorama.  You can see the Propaganda Village, the Bridge of No Return, and the wartime truce buildings.  The mountains behind that area are the vicinity of Kaesong.  Before the war Kaesong was in South Korea right at the border and was the site of one of the attacks with which the North began the war.  During the war, the area of Panmunjom was the closest thing to "tank country" in Korea.           


Freedom Bridge across the Imjin

Freedom Bridge


Conference Buildings