Panmunjom or the ‘peace village’ is considered as a perfect venue for the Inter-Korean Summit which is slated for tomorrow. It signifies national division and is apt as it is the same place where the order of armistice was concluded many decades before.
Panmunjom has been a witness to many diplomatic and military events over the years including a line of administrative, military and humanitarian dialogues since 1971 when first hotline and liaison offices were opened in Koreas. The Area also saw the infamous axe-wielding incident when two US soldiers were murdered by North Korean soldiers in 1976 in the Joint Security Area JSA for trying to get a better view by cutting of a poplar tree. It is said that Moon was a part of the plan along with the US to get the tree removed three days after the brutal attack as a show of force. President Moon’s 2011 memoir also states that the DEFCON alert system was for the first time since the Korean War was raised to a quasi-state of war. North Korea did not react to the tree-cutting and the situation was averted peacefully.
It is slated that heads from both the Koreas will together plant a pine tree on the MDL i.e. the military demarcation line using soil and water from both the countries as a symbol of peace and prosperity.
The Joint Security Area JSA in Panmunjom lies at a distance of 60 km from Seoul and 210 km from Pyongyang. Either side of the MDL is house to liaison offices and conference halls which also includes the South Korean Peace Hall where President Moon and Kim Jong Un will hold talks. The United Nations Command and North Korea are only permitted to send the maximum of 35 troops to the area carrying only one pistol or automatic rifle. A 2 km buffer is present on either side of the MDL which is lined with razor wire and heavy armaments. Although the whole area is a no-man’s land for more than 60 years it does hold some tourist attractions.
It is expected that both the Koreas will hold discuss peace and thus replace the armistice including the end of hostilities across the border. South Korea has tried to set a positive tone before the Summit by stopping all propaganda broadcasts across the border. Similar broadcasts from North Korea are also reduced.