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South Korea disarms Joint Security Area in North-South border

By Wooyoung Lee
South Korea disarms Joint Security Area in North-South border
South Korean soldiers stand guard April 18 at the Joint Security Area of the Demilitarized Zone in the border village of Panmunjom, South Korea. Photo by Jeon Heon-kyun/EPA-EFE

SEOUL, Oct. 25 (UPI) -- Civilians will be able to walk across the North-South Korean border in the formerly restricted Joint Security Area (JSA) in Panmunjom, where the summit between North and South Korean leaders was held in April.

Seoul's defense ministry said Thursday the area has been disarmed as North, South Korea and the United Nations Command withdrew firearms, ammunition, guard posts and armed personnel, according to Yonhap News.

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The area has been a symbol of military tension and confrontation between North and South Korea. Security was enhanced after North Korean troops attacked U.S. military officers and guard soldiers on Aug. 18, 1976.

Since then, armed North and South Korean soldiers stood face-to-face on guard but were not allowed to interact. South Korean soldiers wore black sunglasses to avoid any eye contact with their counterparts.

Officials said the JSA will now be guarded by disarmed North and South Korean personnel at new posts. The area had been patrolled by 80 North and South Korean soldiers before it was disarmed. The number of guard personnel will reduce to 35.

After new posts are installed, North and South Koreans and foreign tourists will be able to cross the North and South sides of the area from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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