Maya Jaggi

Letter from Seoul

The truce camp at Panmunjom on the Korean peninsula must rank among the world’s most surreal sights. Helmeted soldiers in forest-green uniforms clench fists with staged aggression as tourists take snaps (army-regulation dark glasses are a mainstay in the souvenir shop). Beyond the sky-blue UN huts, brown-uniformed North Korean troops peer back through binoculars. Despite its absurd theatricality, this is a volatile point of contact in an unfinished war: the two Koreas never signed a peace treaty after the Korean War of 1950–53. A couple of days before I visited in March, the North had fired another ballistic missile off the coast, in defiance of UN bans. 

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