South Korea

north and south

Annyeng from Paju in South Korea,

      What happens when/if unification of the two Koreas occurs? For a start, The Demilitarised Zone between the two halves of the peninsula would disappear immediately. That has to be a good thing, right?

Joint Security Area

     Trouble is, the four-kilometre strip that goes from coast to coast is producing quite a trade in tourism. Today, we ventured on an organised bus trip from Seoul to the  Joint Security Area, which is where Kim Jong-Un invites other leaders to step across the line (President Moon in April and Mr. Trump ten days ago). We were at the very spot. We weren’t the only ones.

bullet holes in the train – border North and South Korea

      Trips down one of the North Korean tunnels (four discovered to date) are also popular. There were ten coaches in that car park. “This is quite a money spinner,” quipped an incredulous Linda. 

     There’s a whole industry built on interest in the place. Some of the interest is generated by the secrecy which shrouds North Korean territory. There was a group of at least a hundred just gawping across the border from the Dora Observatory. One American kept saying, “Wow” every time proximity to the border dropped below one kilometre.

     So, if reunification becomes a reality, there’s no border, and no industry. They have the same problem as Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guards. The very reason anybody took any notice wanes over time, to a vanishing point. Then, people will be watching a vestige of a bygone phenomenon, wondering what the point actually is. For the industry which grew around the original attraction, death is a difficult transition.

They have no right to complain, since the attraction was never created for them in the first place but they will resist for as long as they can (not to mention the rice farmers in Korea who don’t have to pay tax because they are in United Nations territory). What to do about the economic imperative?

    The answer seems to be to maintain the pretence for as long as possible. In the case of the two Koreas, they would keep a fragment of the barbed wire fence – in the same way, the Germans kept a section of the Berlin Wall – and keep taking people down Tunnel no. 3. They’ll want to keep the money spinning somehow.

Da eum ae ba from Paju


Post Script to the Demilitarised Zone on the Korean Peninsula. At least on the southern side, the land in the Demilitarised Zone is almost completely undeveloped – apart from a small number of rice farmers and the Joint Security Area (where the stony-faced unarmed soldiers “are not here for our protection, but for our orientation”, we were told twice today). The zone is beautiful forest.

One American propaganda film we watched informed us that it was “a land of life” where three species of animals have their last remaining habitat and “humans have an opportunity to live with nature”. Linda said it’s a shame the whole world is not like it.

     If reunification ever occurs, the demilitarised zone will undoubtedly be developed again (as soon as it’s cleared of land mines, that is).

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