These are the two largest buildings within the Joint Security Area (JSA) of the Korean Demilitarised Zone (DMZ). The buildings, one in North Korea and the other in South Korea are directly opposite each other and about 80 metres apart, separated by the UN Conference Row which straddles the border itself.
The North Korea building (Panmungak – pictured above), which for years the US claimed was a facade only (it’s not, I have been in it – or at least used the internal staircase to access the top floor balcony), was built in 1969.
The three-story building, in addition to affording tourists like me a good view across the border into South Korea, serves as offices for North Korean guards in the JSA as well as waiting rooms for representatives for armistice talks or inter-Korean dialogues. The third story was added in 1998 when Freedom House, in the South, was rebuilt. Contrary to the view of many it is not the North Korean Visitor Centre for the DMZ. The Visitor Centre is located two kilometres north of here at the entry to the DMZ.
The South Korean Building, Freedom House, was built in 1998 replacing a rather more modest structure which had an octagonal pavilion on the roof. The octagonal pavilion has been preserved and can be seen just to the left of the new building looking at it from the North Korean side.
The four-story building is topped with a transparent roof and houses a ‘South and North Liaison Office’ and a ‘South and North Red Cross Liaison Office’. Like its counterpart in the north, it supports various forms of inter-Korean dialogues. A slightly closer look will reveal numerous rather sophisticated cameras and observation devices pointed directly northwards – pictured below. Fewer and less sophisticated looking equipment can be seen on Panmungak – this, unsurprisingly, points southwards.
While Freedom House has one story more than Panmungak I believe the latter is higher, perhaps because it sits on higher ground. If you have read or read others of my Panmunjom reviews you will understand that size does matter in the DMZ and bigger is better.
This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries based on my visit to Panmunjom (DMZ), North Korea. I suggest you continue with my next entry – Kijong-dong Village. Is it or isnt it real ? – or to start this loop at the beginning go to my introductory entry – If war resumes leave the area as soon as possible!