The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula; it was established at the end of the Korean War to serve as a buffer zone between North and South Korea. The DMZ is a de facto border barrier, which runs in the vicinity of the 38th parallel north. The DMZ cuts the Korean Peninsula roughly in half, crossing the 38th parallel on an angle, with the west end of the DMZ lying south of the parallel and the east end lying north of it. It was created as part of the Korean Armistice Agreement between North Korea, the People’s Republic of China, and the United Nations Command forces in 1953.
It is 250 kilometres (160 miles) long, approximately 4 km (2.5 mi) wide and, despite its name, is the most heavily militarized border in the world. The Northern Limit Line, or NLL, is the disputed maritime demarcation line between North and South Korea in the Yellow Sea, not agreed in the armistice. The coastline and islands on both sides of the NLL are also heavily militarized.
The 38th parallel north—which divides the Korean Peninsula roughly in half—was the original boundary between the United States and Soviet brief administration areas of Korea at the end of World War II. Upon the creation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, informally North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (ROK, informally South Korea) in 1948, it became a de facto international border and one of the most tense fronts in the Cold War.
Both the North and the South remained heavily dependent on their sponsor states from 1948 to the outbreak of the Korean War. The conflict, which claimed over three million lives and divided the Korean Peninsula along ideological lines, commenced on June 25, 1950, with a full-front DPRK invasion across the 38th parallel, and ended in 1953 after international intervention pushed the front of the war back to near the 38th parallel.
A South Korean checkpoint in the DMZ (viewed from the North Korean side).
Since November 15, 1974, the South has discovered that four tunnels crossing the DMZ have been dug by North Korea. This is indicated by the orientation of the blasting lines within each tunnel. Upon their discovery, North Korea claimed that the tunnels were for coal mining; however, no coal has been found in the tunnels, which are dug through granite. Some of the tunnel walls have been painted black to give the appearance of anthracite.
The tunnels are believed to have been planned as a military invasion route by North Korea. Each shaft is large enough to permit the passage of an entire infantry division in one hour, though the tunnels are not wide enough for tanks or vehicles. All the tunnels run in a north-south direction and do not have branches. Following each discovery, engineering within the tunnels has become progressively more advanced. For example, the third tunnel sloped slightly upwards as it progressed southward, to prevent water stagnation. Today, visitors may visit the second, third and fourth tunnels through guided tours.
The First Tunnel(DMZ)
The first of the tunnels was discovered on November 20, 1974, by a South Korean Army patrol, noticing steam rising from the ground. The initial discovery was met with automatic fire from North Korean soldiers. Five days later, during a subsequent exploration of this tunnel, U.S. Navy Commander Robert M. Ballinger and ROK Marine Corps Major Kim Hah Chul were killed in the tunnel by a North Korean explosive device. The blast also wounded five Americans and one South Korean from the United Nations Command.
The tunnel, which was about 0.9 by 1.2 m (3 by 4 ft), extended more than 1 km (0.62 mi) beyond the MDL into South Korea. The tunnel was reinforced with concrete slabs and had electric power and lighting. There were weapon storage and sleeping areas. A narrow gauge railway with carts had also been installed. Estimates based on the tunnel’s size suggest it would have allowed approximately 2,000 soldiers (one regiment) to pass through it per hour.
The Second Tunnel(DMZ)
The second tunnel was discovered on March 19, 1975. It is of similar length to the first tunnel. It is located between 50 and 160 m (160 and 520 ft) below ground, but is larger than the first, approximately 2 by 2 m (7 by 7 feet).
The 3rd Infiltration Tunnel(DMZ)
The 3rd Infiltration Tunnel is the one of our Main tour sites.
The 3rd Infiltration Tunnel was discovered on October 17, 1978. Unlike the previous two, the 3rd tunnel was discovered following a tip from a North Korean defector. This tunnel is about 1,600 m (5,200 ft) long and about 73 m (240 ft) below ground. Foreign visitors touring the South Korean DMZ may view inside this tunnel using a sloped access shaft.
The Fourth Tunnel(DMZ)
A fourth tunnel was discovered on March 3, 1990, north of Haean town in the former Punchbowl battlefield. The tunnel’s dimensions are 2 by 2 m (7 by 7 feet), and it is 145 metres (476 ft) deep. The method of construction is almost identical in structure to the second and the third tunnels.
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