The DMZ (38th parallel) separates the Korea Peninsular into north and south. This strip of land is roughly 4 km wide and runs 250 km east to west. It acts as a buffer zone between Communist Korea in the north and Republic of Korea in the south. It is the most militarized cold war border in the world. The surrounding area is heavily mined and the tension has been running high since the Armistice Agreement was signed back in 1953.
Panmunjeom or Joint Security Area is the place where the negotiations have taken place in the past. Inside this area, you can enter one of the buildings that are built right over top the Military Demarcation Line. Once inside and accompanied by military personnel, you are allowed to cross into North Korea territory by walking across to the other side of the table pass the border line. However, you are not allowed to go through the door across the room and enter into North Korea. Who would want to start WWWIII!
Numerous incidents have taken place in the DMZ area since the Armistice was signed in 1953. One took place as recent as October 2010 where shots were fired from the north and was quickly responded by gunfire from the south. All in all, there were 500 South Korean soldiers and 50 US soldiers killed due to skirmishes between 1953 and 1999.
Since 1974, South Korean army had discovered 4 tunnels dug by the north that crossed into DMZ. The size of these tunnels are large enough for the entire infantry to pass through within an hour.
The tension in the DMZ is all too real. Seoul is situated within an hour drive south from DMZ area. This is why the South Korean army is always vigilant and takes every possible threat as an military aggression. Besides UN’s presence (mainly US armed forces), the DMZ is also monitored by members of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission which includes Swiss and Swedish armed forces stationed in this area.