A green swath of 400 square miles splits the peninsula in half.
This land has been burned, pillaged, occupied and degraded from the Japanese invasions from 1592 to 1598 to the Japanese occupation from 1910 to 1945.
This land was divided in half at the 38th parallel after World War II.
Backed by the Soviet Union and China the North pushed their way south starting a three year war that subjected the land to widespread devastation destroying cities, forests and families.
Not peace, but an armistice, settled the conflict. The demilitarized zone was created as each side agreed to move their troops back 2,200 yards from the front line, creating a buffer zone 2.5 miles wide. A buffer zone of heavily armed soldiers. A buffer zone that reminds us peace is still not here. A buffer zone keeping loved ones out of reach.
Daeseong-dong and Kijŏng-dong are the only settlements allowed by the armistice committee to remain within the boundaries of the DMZ. Residents of Daeseong-dong are governed and protected by the United Nations Command and are generally required to spend at least 240 nights per year in the village to maintain their residency. In 2008, the village had a population of 218 people. The villagers of Daeseong-dong are direct descendants of people who owned the land before the war. Near the Bridge of No Return, used for prisoner exchanges at the end of the war, is an area where ribbons of peace and prayer can be tied to a barbed-wire fence.
“Leaving North Korea is not like leaving any other country. It is more like leaving another universe. I will never truly be free of its gravity, no matter how far I journey.”
― Hyeonseo Lee