Visits to the truce village on the border with North Korea may soon resume

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un greets President Donald Trump from the North Korean side of the Joint Security Area, June 30, 2019, in this photo from the Korean Central News Agency. (KCNA)

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SEOUL, South Korea — Tours of the Truce Village that straddles the border with North Korea, which have been suspended for about a year due to concerns about African swine fever and the coronavirus, may resume soon, announced the United Nations Command led by the United States on Monday. .

The Joint Security Zone is the only point in the buffer zone dividing the peninsula where North Korean and UN troops face each other.

Tours of the area, located in the heart of the DMZ and including the iconic Blue Building where the armistice that ended the 1950-1953 Korean War was signed, have been hugely popular.

Authorities began restricting civilian access to the JSA and other points in the 155-mile long and 2.5-mile wide DMZ in September 2019 to prevent the spread of African swine fever after the discovery of wild boar dead from disease. The coronavirus pandemic has further complicated efforts to reopen the area.

Citing “successful containment efforts and the reduction in the number of infected pigs in the area”, the command said it had agreed with the South Korean government that the area could be reopened.

General Robert Abrams, who heads the UN command and US forces in Korea, has authorized the resumption of touring as part of his education and orientation program at the JSA, according to a press release.

The United Nations Command, which oversees the area under the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War, said it was preparing for the official restart, including the implementation of measures to prevention of coronaviruses and will soon announce the date of reopening to the general public.

“UNC will continue to work with the [South Korean government] as they monitor African Swine Fever and COVID-19 conditions to ensure all necessary mitigation measures are in place to safeguard health and safety,” the command said. COVID-19 is the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.

Panmunjom played a key role in inter-Korean peace negotiations and US-led efforts to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

It was the site of a historic inter-Korean summit in 2018 as well as an impromptu meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last year when Trump became the first sitting US president to enter in the communist state.

gamel.kim@stripes.com Twitter: @kimgamel

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