Korea – South Korea (KPKR): Joint Security Area (JSA) in The
Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
Korean soldiers guarding the Military Demarcation Line (MDL). The
MDL of separation between the belligerent sides at the close of the Korean war forms North Korea's boundary with South Korea. A demilitarized zone (DMZ) extends for 2,000 meters (just over 1 mile) on either side of the MDL. Both the North and South Korean Governments hold that the MDL as only a temporary administrative line, not a permanent border.
The Joint Security Area (JSA) is a 400m x 800m rectangular area, set up on the Military Demarcation Line within the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission
(UNCMAC) compound in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North Korea
and South Korea. It is reserved for talks between the United Nations Command (UNC) and its Communist counterparts (North Korea and China).
When the JSA was first created, UNCMAC officials from both sides were allowed to move freely within the Area. However, that is not the case anymore with the enforcement of the dividing line (or the MDL) within the JSA in the wake of the ‘Axe Murder Incident of 18th August, 1976.
2) The only boundary change of the Joint Security Area was the enforcement of the dividing line within the JSA after the murders of two American officers in 1976. Prior to this, the entire area was a neutral area, where members of either side had free movement within the JSA.
report is on our visit to the DMZ at Panmunjom from the North
Korean side in September 2011.
At the turn the highway from Pyongyang ends. The traffic sign says
"70 km to Seoul".
Close-up of the traffic sign.
Entrance gate to the Demilitarized Zone. The slogan
actually says "Let's be friendly together" or "Let's make
On the other side of the gate there is another text – 자주 통일!
– which means something "Unification without outside help!".
This is the socalled "General Lecture Room" where visitors to
the DMZ and JSA get a short lecture by military personell.
Korean lance sergeant explains about the JSA.
The lance sergeant provides in this short film general information about the
Demilitarized Zone's Joint Security Area, but only in Korean language.
At the North Korean entrance to the DMZ/JSA there is a number of huge,
cube shaped tank traps placed on both sides of the narrow road.
Most likely explosives are placed under them.
Close at the tank trap.
Korean lance sergeant escorts us from the General Lecture Room to the
On the way to the halls where the armistice was negotiated between 1951
and 1953 and eventually signed.
The armistice agreement discussed around this table said that each side
agreed to move their troops back 2,000 m from the front line, creating a
buffer zone 4 km wide.
On the photo (from left): Ole Søndergård, Peter Hering, Hans Peter
Nissen, Hother Hennings and Jan S. Krogh.
A copy of the original armistice treaty is to be found in the hall where
treaty was signed on 27 July 1953. It is now a museum.
This was until August 1976 the main road from North Korea to the
JSA. On 18 Aug The Axe Murder Incident at 'The Bridge of No
Return' resulted in the killing of two U.S. soldiers, and therefore that
each side from this day had to keep their personell on their own JSA
side. Previous to the incident both North and South personell could move
freely inside the Joint Security Area.
A close-up of the same photo shows a huge South Korean flag.
The Bridge of No Return is closed on South Korean side. The old sign to
left says "Military Demarcation Line" (both in Korean and
English). 15a) It was used for prisoner exchanges at the end of the Korean War in 1953. The name originates from the claim that many war prisoners captured by the United States did not wish to return home. The prisoners were brought to the bridge and given the choice to remain in the country of their captivity or cross over to the other country. But if they chose to cross the bridge, they would never be allowed to return.
At The 72-hour Bridge the North Korean side has an about 40 m wide
and about 130 m long bottleneck in to their side of JSA which is
surrounded by South Korean territory. This photo is taken just west of
the bridge into the JSA and towards south.
The same North Korean border fence from a slightly other angle.
The vehicle is now driving onto the bridge.
The 72 Hour Bridge is about 170 m long. Photo from south towards
We stand next (on left side) to the Kim il-Sung signature monument
towards south. To straight left is the North Korean Panmungak
headquarters and to right a North Korean watch tower.
Former DPRK President Kim il-Sung died on 8 July 1994. This
monument shall memory that the last document he signed, on the day
before his death, was a document on the country’s reunification, bearing his signature “Kim Il Sung July 7, 1994.”
The stone is situated about 70 m northeast of the MDL.
Tongilgak is a DPRK administrative building, corresponding to the
Republic of Korea (ROK) "House of Peace," in which representatives from the DPRK and ROK meet. Tongilgak is referred to at times as "Unification Pavilion."
These two North Korean buildings on the Conference Row are not being
used at the moment. In the background is the South Korean Freedom
The JSA from the Panmun-gak roof – from North towards South. The Military Demarcation Line divides
the seven sheds situated on it. The grey buildings belong to North
Korea, while the blue belongs to United Nation. Shed no 1 from left is used by North
Korean soldiers ("KPA Recreation Room" also called "The Monkey House").
Shed no 2 (T-3) was the United Nations Command Joint Duty Office
(UNCJDO) Conference Room. Shed no 3 (T-2) from left is the conference
hall used for tours (United Nations Command
Military Armistice Commission (UNCMAC) Conference Room). 24)
The remaining sheds (no 4 (T-1), 5, 6 and 7) are or have been used by the Neutral Nations Supervisory
Commission (NNSC) which has its camp east of the JSA. The big building
behind the Conference Row is the South Korean Freedom House. (Click
for high resolution image - 3,1 MB.)
The JSA and Panmun-gak and the Conference Row watched from South towards
North. The three Conference Row buildings to the left appear not to be
in use at the moment. The NNSC uses only T-1 at the time being (Dec.
The JSA and Panmun-gak from South towards North from ground level.
Photo: Aaron Crayne. 27)
A mosaic made from many photos of a tour video gives us a seldom view of
the two western North Korean buildings watched from Southern side. Here
it was among other bank services until the 1976 incident when free
movement of personell over the MDL inside the JSA was banned. The
building to right is the T-1. 28)
A close-up of the photo above shows again the huge South Korean
flagpole; it's located in the South Korean propaganda village Tae Song
Dong and in a distance of 1640 m towards south.
In 1980s, the South Korean government built a 98.4 m tall flagpole with a 130 kg South Korean flag.
More towards west we can also observe the North Korean flag which flies
above the propaganda village of Kichong-dong, exactly 2300 m in
After the South Korean flag appeared, the North Korean government responded by building what was then the tallest flagpole in the world at 160 m with a 270 kg North Korean flag, in what some have called the "flagpole war." The flagpole was superseded as the world's tallest, following the construction of the flagpole in Baku's National Flag Square at 162 m. Both flagpoles have recently been topped by the Dushanbe Flagpole in Tajikistan, at 165 m.
Each side is in charge of this particular shed, the main conference
hall, for a period of 30 minutes at a time. Therefore each guided
trip should be done in 20 minutes with 10 minutes between groups from
each side. After the Axe Murder
Incident in August 1976 these sheds are what is left from the Joint Security Area,
as a common area for personell from both sides. In this way the UNCMAC
shed is a Korean condominia – the
only Korean area situated on the Korean peninsula which people from
both Korean republics may visit. The shed is about 136 m². (The Kaesong Industrial Region - Kaesŏng Kongŏp Chigu
- is a North Korean Free Economic Zone which permits South Korean
companies to low-cost North Korean labour, but the zone is not open for
On the South Korean side two officers are passing by.
We have identified the person (wearing a black beret) to right to be one
of the five men strong Swedish group of the Neutral Nations Supervisory
Commission (NNSC). The task
today can be described as maintaining the validity of the truce
mechanism with the aid of a Swedish and Swiss 33a)presence in the
demilitarised zone between North and South Korea. NNSC has ongoing
contact with the south side – United Nations Command. There is
currently no contact with the north side. 33b)
This photo is taken from South Korean side and with South Korean
military personell facing the Panmun-gak Hall. 37)
DMZ from the ground entrance to the Panmun-gak. (Click on the
photo to get up a larger version.)
A short film taken in front of the conference sheds before we visited
the middle blue one.
The building is about 17 x 8 metres and is divided approximately on the
middle. During visits it is heavily guarded in order to avoid
unauthorized passings of the MDL.
The de facto border between the two countries is marked by
basically white stakes that are spaced 10 m apart, and runs from coast
to coast. 41a)
The white stakes indicated the Military Demarcation Line
(MDL), the only place there are not white stakes is in the JSA between
the buildings where the MDL instead is indicated by 43 x 13 cm slabs of
concrete. The MDL is where the front line was at the signing of
the armistice. 41b)
The North Korean guards are on watch at the Line only when there are
visitors on the North Korean side.
Representatives from Republic of Korea and North Korea meet at the Military Demarcation Line at Panmunjom, Republic of Korea, prior to the caravan of 501 cattle and 50 vehicles entering the Communist North Korea, Oct. 27, 1998. South Korean business tycoon Chung Ju-yung, founder and honorary chairman of Hyundai Group, donated 501 head of cattle and the vehicles to the famine-stricken country. Mr. Chung had given the North Koreans 500 head of cattle earlier this year in June. (U. S. Air Force photo by TSgt(s) Renee' Sitler) (Released)
The caravan is waiting in order to be
allowed to pass over the MDL into the Northern side. (U. S. Air Force photo by TSgt(s) Renee' Sitler) (Released).
The actual access road the caravan drove can be seen on this
A caravan of 501 cattle and 50 vehicles enter North Korea in front of Panmungak from Panmunjom, Republic of Korea, Oct. 27, 1998.
This is most likely the only occation after 1976 vehicles have passed
over the Conference Row.
(U. S. Air Force photo by TSgt(s) Renee' Sitler) (Released).
Drivers cross back over to Panmunjom, Republic of Korea, after driving a caravan of 501 cattle and 50 vehicles into North Korea, Oct. 27, 1998.
They appear to be walking between T-1 and T-2. (U. S. Air Force photo by TSgt(s) Renee' Sitler) (Released).
Only when one or several of the in total seven conference sheds are
used; the parts may use the entire area inside them, but is not allowed
to take one step on ground on the other side.
From our visit inside shed no 3. Our guide Ms Kim translates from
During the short visit I found my place at the head end of the table;
both in South Korea (my right side) and in North Korea (my left
side). Hother is in the South while Hans Peter is in the North.
Notice the North Korean soldier we see through the window.
This photo which is taken from South Korean side towards the same window
I was sitting behind on the photo over, shows how the de facto boundary
(or MDL) at this shed goes with the windows. The MDL runs on middle of
the longer lenght of the slab. That means the line is not exactly
between the windows, but about on the edge between the window glass and
its wooden frame. 52)
A group photo during our short stay in South Korea. (Ms Kim to
right.) Both sides have guards in the end of the room in order to
prevent defectors. During the decades a number of persons have defected
in both directions. 51)
An electric cable and two switches are located exactly under the middle
of the table – probably right on the MDL.
A final photo with our Joint Security Area