Interesting Fact of the Day...
Today, I'm going to take you to a spot you'll most likely recognize from the news: The DMZ and the Joint Security Area (JSA).
DMZ stands for Demilitarized Zone- a 4 km wide, 250 km long demilitarized stretch of land between North and South Korea. Beyond that is one of the most heavily militarized borders in the entire world.
The DMZ serves as a meeting place between two nations at war.
Escorted by a US Army Military Police officer, we went to the JSA.
You'll recognize the infamous blue buildings.
If you zoom closer in the picture below, the cement line running through the center of the buildings is the actual border.
Cross that line and you're in North Korea.
The two armies stare at each other all day, every day. The tension here is so heavy you can literally feel it in the air.
If you look on the balcony of the stone building, you'll see a bunch of North Korean soldiers.
The KPA: Korean People's Army.
They came out and started watching us.
Apparently, this wasn't normal.
It seemed a bit unnerving to our military escort...which of course made me even more nervous.
We were instructed not to so much as point at the North Koreans--lest it be used for propaganda.
All South Korean men, over the age of 18, must serve two years in the Republic of Korea military (ROK). Being here at the DMZ, they loved to see us. It's a change of pace for these guys, most of whom are barely twenty years old.
The ROK soldiers at the JSA are the best of the best-- the highest trained, black belts in martial arts etc. They stand in a taekwondo stance, keep a stoic face, and wear sunglasses to appear intimidating to the KPA soldiers.
Now, go back to the first photo and look at their pants.
What you can't tell from the picture is that there are bells sewn into the hem. When they walk it creates more noise.
Another intimidation factor.
The blue UN buildings are used by both the North and the South. When not in use, the doors are unlocked.
If the North Koreans bring someone in on a tour, they lock the door to the south, and vice versa.
Prior to us entering the blue building, the ROK soldiers locked the door to keep any North Korean soldiers from coming in. They also remain on guard inside --for our protection.
Inside, our military escort tells us a story.
I like stories!
One time, after a tour had left, a ROK guard went to unlock the door to the North, like they always do before leaving.
The moment he unlocked it, several KPA soldiers pushed through. They grabbed the poor guy, trying to drag him outside and into North Korea.
An attempted abduction.
They'd been listening from the other side to the bells on his pants, waiting to ambush him.
The other ROK soldiers grabbed onto him for dear life, keeping him from being pulled through the door.
Now, whenever a tour has left, it's a team effort to unlock the door to North Korea.
As one soldier unlocks it, the other holds a martial arts stance, grasping his partner’s belt to keep him from being dragged, almost literally, into hell.