For the first time in more than 30 years, Western television crews have been allowed to film north of the Korean cease-fire line at Panmunjon.
For the first time in more than 30 years, Western television crews have been allowed to film north of the Korean cease-fire line at Panmunjon. The journalists were given the opportunity to tour the sensitive area during the World Table Tennis Championships in Pyongyang, capital of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea.
SYNOPSIS: The truce village of Panmunjon separates the armies of the two Korea, estimated at more than a million soldiers strong. for Western journalists, this northern side has been out of bounds for three decades -- until a North Korean army major took them on tour.
It meant television crews could film American troops from the enemy side -- across a simple concrete strip marking the boundary.
There are more than 40,000 United States military personnel in South Korea, nearly 30,000 of them ground combat troops. Some took careful notes -- and photographs -- of the press visit.
Also living on the line are members of the International Control Commission, made up of Swedish and Swiss military officers who have the right to cross the demarcation line. Their job is to supervise the basic details of communications between north and south.
These armistice huts have been the scene of talks between North and South Korean officials this year. The first discussions on possible reunification since August 1973 were held here last February (1979) with real indications of improving relations between the two sides. North Korea agreed to stop its campaign of criticism of the South, while South Korea sought restoration of the telephone hot-line to the northern capital.
The United States supports the negotiations but there remains opposition to American withdrawal from the area. Some Congressmen, the Seoul government and allies such as Japan reportedly see such a move as evidence of slackening American strategic interest in the region.
The U.S. Ambassador to Seoul, Mr. William Gleysteen, has said the withdrawals will be gradual, cautious and flexible. But these plans would be adjusted, he warned, if American assumptions about South Korea's capacity for self-defence proved wrong. Much of the interest in strategy at the Armistice site comes down to who has the highest position. And it is on that count that the Americans win out. Their forward army position cannot be topped.