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. 

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,
    • 'We read from left to right and from start to finish. Or do we?' Stuart Hannabus considers the merits of reading i… ,
    • Domestic scandal, sexual abuse and serial killers are on the menu in April's crime round-up. revie… ,