In a historic development, it was today confirmed that, as of November 1st 2018, tourists to the Korean Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) will be able to cross from the North to the South!
Although exemptions have been made in the past, such as in the 2015 case of US feminist Gloria Steinem and her “Women Cross DMZ” group, this marks the first time that tourists have been granted non-specific permission to cross the border at Panmunjom. Tourists will be able to cross the iconic border at the village of Panmunjom, known as the place where the two Koreas signed the 1953 Armistice Agreement that halted hostilities between the two. The two nations technically remain at war some seventy years later.
Though fully crossing the border — in the sense of leaving the North and entering the South indefinitely — will still not be an option, visitors will be able to cross to the southern side of the JSA (Joint Security Area) and view the pine tree planted by the North Koreans there. YPT’s Troy Collings, currently on tour in the DPRK, has visited the area and remarks that “soldiers from each side are crossing over with no weapons or helmets.”
Despite its name, the DMZ ironically remains one of the most heavily militarised border crossings in the world, and actual crossings remain rare. In addition to authorised crossings, such as the above “Women Cross DMZ” event, defectors and prisoners have also traversed the border. Throughout the 1950s the JSA was the site of prisoner repatriations typical of the Cold War, with Koreans of both sides and international soldiers sent back across the area’s “Bridge of No Return”. The area has also been a flash-point for North-South tensions over the years; several bloody skirmishes have taken place in the area, with the most infamous being the 1973 “Axe Murder” incident which saw two US soldiers killed over a tree-cutting dispute.
During the 1980s, the JSA was notable for the site of two high-profile defections. In 1984 a Soviet citizen on a Communist-led tour of the border suddenly dashed across the demarcation line, drawing fire from some 30 KPA soldiers and instigating a 40-minute firefight between the KPA and the US-ROK soldiers stationed there. After casualties on both sides, a ceasefire was negotiated and the Soviet, Vasily Matusak, was given political asylum in the US. In 1989, a Chinese soldier and his wife defected across the border — the first Chinese soldier to do so since the Korean War.
The DMZ has been the site of some of the most intense Cold War intrigues ever known — don’t miss out on your chance to cross this historic border!
Join our DPRK Winter Essential Tour for your chance to traverse the DMZ yourself!