The emergence of the DMZ and current status
The DMZ - A land of agony and hope
An unsettling cold breeze was once the feeling you experienced when entering the DMZ. It was quite fearful when I think back; however, it is time to view the DMZ from a new perspective, with eyes wide open. Now, the area is surrounded by a deep sense of hope.
<A landscape of the Chilseong Observatory in Hwacheon> Photo by KangwonIlbo
A desolate yet peaceful space where the gunfire stopped
“Ships were retreating from North Korea’s grayish sea water and silver aircrafts silently landed on their airfield. No more wars. But no peace, no victory. This is ceasefire.”
- This kind of war, (2000) T.R. Ferhenback
At 10:00 am on July 27th 1953, United Nations Forces Commander, alongside representatives from North Korea and China, gathered at Panmunjeom. The purpose of this meeting was to continue ceasefire negotiations that were ongoing for the past two years. Without hesitation or silent greetings, documents were prepared and signed by both parties in a total of twelve minutes. This was a pivotal moment in history, when three years of war looming over the Korean Peninsula, ended. Gunfire has ceased to exist, resulting in neither of the oppositions’ in victory. The Korean War left us in irrevocable pain, as well as unsolicited difficulties. The DMZ-un approachable land,crossing the Korean Peninsular from East to West.
<An endless line of cease-fire > Photo by Jun Young-jae
According to the dictionary definition, ‘Demilitarized Zone’(DMZ), refers to a “prohibited military zone by international treaty or convention” The 2km DMZ is used as a space of refuge from the MDL. This decision was made based on Article 1: Section one, from the ceasefire agreement. Its role is to be a military buffer zone in order to prevent military crash between the North and the South.
2km North and South of MDL, the DMZ, is a total width of 4km.Taking the Korean Peninsula into account, the DMZ’s length is 248km (155miles), measured from the mouth of the Yellow Sea’s Imjingang River, to the East Sea’s Myeongho-ri, Goseong-gun. Its combined area is 1.5 times bigger than the city of Seoul and 1/250 of the Korean Peninsula’s total area. From the Imjingang River’s estuary to the far end of Ganghwado Island is a neutral region forming part of the Han River estuary, which the North and South are permitted to use. This is in contrast to the DMZ, where the North and South’s private usage is restricted.
A 248km heart-breaking boundary, cutting across our mountains and streams
Certain boundaries cannot be crossed carelessly, which were born right after the agreement of armistice. These boundaries are recognizable as Military Demarcation Lines (MDL), namely the Southern Limit Line (SLL); Northern Limit Line (NLL); and Civilian Control Line (CCL). SLL is 2km south of MDL, and CCL is within 10km south of MDL when seen from the side of South Korea (Protection of Military Installations Act: Article 1). Regions adjoined to the CCL are called ‘border-line areas’.
随着签署停战协定，韩国产生了无法随意跨越的几条线。这就是军事分界线（Military Demarcation Line：MDL）与南方警戒线（Southern Limit Line：SLL）、北方限界线（Northern Limit Line：NLL）、民间人统制线（民统线、Civilian Control Line：CCL）。在南韩看，从军事分界线向南2公里有南方警戒线，在军事分界线10公里以内向南划着民间人统制线（军事基地与军事设施保护法第5条）。而且，邻近民间人统制线的地区被称为‘接境地区’。
The MDL, which forms part of the DMZ, depicts an askew shape, slightly diverged from the 38th parallel. This is the result, as the MDL was not designed in dis accordance with the 38th parallel but with the military confrontation line during the ceasefire agreement.
The southern boundary line (SBL), which is 2km South of MDL, is familiar territory. Through press media such as TV networks and newspapers, soldiers have been seen on duty in the front line alongside barbed-wire fencing. Many people have mistaken the barbed-wire fence for the MDL, but this front line is SBL. There are no barbed-wire fences or entanglements at MDL. Dangerous stakes only exist at certain points every 200m along the boundary of the Imjingang River to Goseong-gun (total 1,292 stakes).
The purpose of the Civilian Control Line (CCL) is to control citizen access. The area between MDL and CCL is called the Civilian Control Area. An act was instated in February 1954 to prohibit the access of civilians in order to protect military facilities and to effectively execute military operations.
DMZ: A reformed structure and significance
Today, the DMZ has transformed itself from its original scope and purpose. To secure the highlands for advantageous observation, the North and South forced their way through the structure, altering the DMZ’s 4km width, resulting in the MDL as the center. At certain points, the width has been reduced to a few hundred meters; therefore, the necessity to accurately determine the DMZ’s area is stronger than ever before.
The DMZ is not the only area where the dimensions have been distorted. The CCL has also transformed itself from its original form. The CCL was initially set within a range of 5~20km from the south of the MDL, but now it has reduced down to 10km.Villages were formed within the Civilian Control area, which gradually disabled the stringent restrictions and regulations.
It’s already been 60 years since the appearance of the DMZ. Like our life changes, the DMZ has changed too. Unknown land across the wires came to us as a land that should be visited one day. We have inherited the DMZ as the Cold War’s legacy, but now it is time to think about how we will pass it on to future generations.
November 11, 2015
December 3, 2016
April 07, 2017
April 13, 2018
Past that was left for the future, DMZ (2010) HahmGwang-bok, Education Center for Unification, Ministry of Unification
「Research on DMZ’s spatial area」(2007), Kim Chang-hwan, the Geographical Society in Korea
「DMZ discussion: History of concepts andgroping new paradigm」(2013), Lee Jung-cheol, Kangwon Development Institute
「Research on pushing ahead South-North cooperative project for DMZ’s peaceful uses」(2009), Kim Young-bong, Lee Seung-bok, Kim Eun-jung, Korea Research Institute for Human Settlements