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Photographer's Note

Ok, this might not be a technically striking picture, but you see the white building in the background? That is North Korea.

If you happen to be in Seoul, a 1-day trip to the DMZ can be quite an amazing experience. You must be part of an organized tour, and you should make sure that it includes the Joint Security Area (as the rest of the tour is very crowded and overall not very exciting).
The border (marked by concrete) cuts perfectly in half the two buildings, which are still used for meetings and negotiations between the two countries.
The South Korean soldiers constantly monitor the place, keeping a modified Tae-kwon-do stance with clenched fists.They actually must possess a Tae-kwon-do or Judo black belt to serve here!
They also wear sunglasses, to avoid eye-contact with the soldiers from the other side, and therefore reduce the risk of provocations.
Two of the soldiers stay half-hidden behind the buildings, in order to reduce their visibility from the other side.
On top of the stairs of the white building, you can also see a North Korean soldier. Sometimes they come a lot closer to the line, but I was not so lucky.

When visiting the area, you are not supposed to point to the North, or wave your hand, or respond to any gesture: apparently you are constantly monitored and recorded from the North, and any friendly gesture from the South would be used for internal propaganda.
The visit to this section of the DMZ lasts less than 30 minutes, but the palpable tension makes it extremely intense!
Ok, maybe not as intense as it was for Vasily Matusak, a Soviet citizen who came here as a tourist in 1984 with the idea of defecting to the West: he ran across the border while ~30 North Korean soldiers tried shooting him down. Yes, he made it alive.

EDIT: The blue of the two buildings is, as far as I know, the standard United Nations blue (the one also used for the UN flag and for the helmets of their peacekeeping corps). This is because the UN authorized nations defending the South to use of the UN flag. The unified command structure for the forces supporting the South is indeed called "United Nations Command", although the UN never had any real control over it.

Noel_Byrne, worldcitizen, Romano46, UlfE has marked this note useful

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