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Sunday, February 24, 2013

ASIA | Korean demilitarized zone Hunting for North Korean moles


The inlet starts a descent of 70 meters before reaching the underground passage that leads to North Korea. It moves with his head down, between granite walls, up to the walls with the South Korean military blocks the enemy since he discovered the Third Tunnel of Aggression in 1978. We know there are at least a dozen tunnels completed or under construction , "says the soldier Dae Hyun, one of the guards. "I just do not know where they are". The test of a nuclear bomb last week joined the international community in condemning and recalled the destruction capacity in the hands of secretive and totalitarian regime in Pyongyang. But the South Korean side of the most militarized border in the world, where nearly two million soldiers defending their positions along the 38th parallel, the nuclear threat is a secondary concern. The real risk passes a conventional ground invasion . South Korean troops have so far discovered four tunnels built by North Korea to infiltrate its territory. Only one of these passages, which in some cases more than a kilometer delve into South Korean territory, enough to move 30,000 troops, with weapons, on this side of the border in less than an hour. U.S. and South Korean soldiers constantly track the ground for clues , collect data continuously drilled North Korean defectors and Korean Demilitarized Zone for new passages. It is a task almost always futile: the tunnels are too deep and have blocked the exit to not cause suspicion. The third tunnel was discovered thanks to the information provided by a defector. Its walls had been painted black to make it look like a coal mine.The South Korean government has become a symbol of the "North Korean aggression" and tourist destination. A shop at the entrance sellsmemories of the last Iron Curtain of the Cold War , including pieces of the barbed wire that divided the Korean peninsula since the end of World War II. "They are true," says the clerk pointed metal corrosion.

Preparations against invasion

The fun of the tourists visiting the North Korean moles passages contrasts with the situation faced by the inhabitants of the border. The approximately 200 residents of the village of South Korean Taesung-dong (People of Freedom) just have to lean out their windows to spot North Korean troops stationed across the river Seocheongang. Residents are evacuated twice a year in trials that aim to prepare a future invasion. Nobody can leave their houses after 11 at night and most of the town is building a bunker with supplies needed to support long stay underground. "They are in the firing line" , says one of the soldiers who patrol the area. And North Korea invaded the South in 1950, starting a war that caused nearly four million victims and ended three years later in an armistice that left the border as it was. The tunnels discovered reminder that Pyongyang has not given up the dream of unifying the Korean peninsula by force. The Third Tunnel is located just 40 miles from Seoul, the South Korean capital. For tourists, visitors and journalists who visit on occasion to reach only 150 meters from North Korea, underground. "It's a strange feeling , "said Mark J. Sanders, a former U.S. military veteran who has made ​​the trip with his wife. "Suffice it to open the gate and we could walk across."

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