Asia Minute: Korean Border Exchange

Dec 13, 2018

Credit Michael Day / Flickr

Much political attention in the United States remains focused on the southern border. In Asia, there’s another border that’s been in the news this week.

For the first time since the Korean War, soldiers from North and South Korea peacefully crossed the border this week.  It wasn’t only symbolic — this was for a very specific reason.

Troops from each side were checking guard posts — facilities that have been dismantled in recent months.

North Korea blew theirs up. South Korea tore their down using heavy machinery like excavators.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry says a total of 154 military inspectors from both sides took part in this week’s inspection — split into five groups. The teams visited ten guard posts on each side, confirming that it would be difficult to rebuild them.

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency described a scene combining military, diplomatic and technical expertise. The South Korean side used a machine similar to a large stethoscope to check that tunnels and other underground facilities had been destroyed.

A South Korean sentry near the demilitarized zone (Imjingang).
Credit Johannes Barre / Wikimedia Commons

There are about 200 other guard posts that remain along the Demilitarized Zone — which stretches across the peninsula for 155 miles with a width of about 2.5 miles.

70 percent of those remaining guard posts belong to North Korea.

As for the recently dismantled border facilities, one guard post on each side was left standing but vacant—not for military reasons, but for symbolism.