Monday, July 1, 2013

Honoring the DMZ - Joint Security Area

Our bus from Osan Air Base (plus the USO Bus from Yongsan Army Garrison) drove onto the United Nations Command Support Battalion (Camp Bonifas).   From Wikipedia (link),

The Joint Security Area (JSA) is the only portion of the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) where South and North Korean forces stand face-to-face. It is often called the "Truce Village" in both the media and various military accounts.

The JSA is used by the two Koreas for diplomatic engagements and, until March 1991, was also the site of military negotiations between North Korea and the United Nations Command (UNC).

We unloaded from our buses and entered the visitors' center.   US Army personnel, assigned to the UN Command, provided an excellent overview of the Korea Conflict and the resulting armistice.

After the briefing, we boarded the Army's buses for a tour of the Joint Security Area.    Go to this link for a map.   We entered South Korea's Home of Freedom - a place for families from both countries to meet.  According to our guide, it has never been used as North Korea will not allow its citizens to cross the border.  The border is the cement line in the picture below.

We walked through the Home of Freedom (no pictures) to its overlook of the UN Buildings.   The USO tour went into the blue  buildings while we remained outside.  Below is a building used by North Korea.  Our guide asked us not to make any hand gestures, even wave, to the North Koreans.   He noted that the North Koreans were probably photographing us, so feel free to return the favor.

The South Korean soldiers stand guard when tours visit the JSA.   In fact, they stand in modified tae kwan do position, ready to defend the tourists.  They stand half exposed behind the buildings to protect themselves from snipers.

Then it was our time to switch with the USO Tour.   We entered the building where both sides meet with the Military Armistice Commission.   Once again, South Korean soldiers stand guard. 

This guard is straddling the border.

I am now on the North Korea's side of the building.  The soldier below is guarding the door to the North Korea.   I asked our guide if North Korea gives tours - he replied they infrequently do.  And when they do, the tours from South Korea stay out of the building (I found this link of an American who visited North Korea and the DMZ - it's eerie to see the DMZ from the other side of the border).

Our tour of the JSA came to an end and we boarded the Army buses.  Our guide drove us to the one checkpoint surrounded by North Korea on three sides.  

From this point, we could view North Korea's landscape ... and its giant flagpole.

Notice the gate house in the middle of the picture ... to its right (and to the rear) is the Bridge of No Return.  

The last POWs to use the bridge was the crew from the USS Pueblo on December 23, 1968.  We did not stop so I took a picture from the bus.

The troops at the DMZ certainly earned the slogan, "In front of them all."  I salute you for your service.


Kim in Korea

Edward N. Johnson, U.S. Army Public Affairs Officer
Public Domain as a work of the Federal Government


  1. Another set of amazing pictures.

  2. Thanks for the photos! I doubt that I'll ever get to see North Korea without your photos...

  3. The whole thing is such a shame but I'm enjoying the pictures!

  4. It's interesting to learn that the soldier stands in the tae kwan do position.

  5. I'm with Debby - amazing pictures! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Great pics and history lesson :) Thanks for sharing, Kim!

  7. Wow. How interesting to be so close to North Korea....the border portion with the cement line. Certainly not a line to cross.

  8. I served a year there man years ago. Great pictures