Recent developments have led to renewed fears of another armed conflict between North and south Korea.
Recent developments have led to renewed fears of another armed conflict between North and south Korea. In such an event, the people with perhaps the most to fear are those living in the village of Daesung-dong (pronounced Dare-Song-Dong).
This small farming community, with a population of about 200, sits right in the middle of the heavily-fortified Demilitarised Zone (D M Z) marking the truce line between the Communist North and the American-backed South. The South Koreans call it Freedom Village.
The title is slightly misleading. The villagers cannot come and go as they please. Because the D.M.Z. is a sensitive area, they must hold passes. For the same reason, outsiders are not allowed to enter the village. Farmers returning from the rice-paddies or fields are subject to checks by South Korean troops.
War is no stranger to Daesung-dong. It was a front-line location when the Korean war ended in 1953. The truce line was fixed according to positions at the cessation of hostilities--and Daesung-dong became a village without a country.
The D.M.Z. is controlled by the United Nations Mixed Armistice Commission and belongs to neither North nor South. But Daesung-dong is on the southern side of the actual border running through the zone, so it was adopted by South Korea.
The village's primary school--with just 30 pupils--is said to be the smallest and poorest of any South Korean school. The children have only their own company because of the restrictions on their movement.
Daesung-dong has enjoyed peace now for 17 years and its people hope it will stay that way.