Analysis | Here’s how a North Korean soldier got inches from Rex Tillerson
This picture would have been taken inside the T-2 building at
Panmunjom, which is opened alternately on a regular schedule to visitors
from the ROK and DPRK sides of the DMZ. This is the building where
many of the armistice and subsequent armistice implementation
negotiations historically have taken place, and is a regular stop on the
DMZ tour. During South Korean-side visits to the DMZ, North Korean
soldiers have traditionally taken pictures of visitors for propaganda
purposes, and South Korean soldiers may possibly do the same with North
Korean delegations. I witnessed this same picture taking activity by NK
soldiers during my last visit there in February of 2016.
regard to security risks, one has to remember both that despite the name
Demilitarized Zone, this is one of the most highly militarized zones on
earth but also that interactions at the JSA portion of the DMZ are
highly ritualized. So there is an element of tension, but there is also
an element of regularity of interaction that breeds a sense of business
as usual and where the soldiers on both sides have established ground
rules that have governed daily interaction in this space for decades.
The most famous breach of those rules occurred during the ‘ax murder
incident’ in the 1970s, involving a North Korean assault on a US-ROK
tree trimming operation of a poplar that had obscured vision in a part
of the JSA.