North Korea’s Fake Town in the DMZ


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Alright, so, for clarification, this is the DMZ and this is the DMV—the department of
motor vehicles for non-Americans—and they’re totally different things. One is a scary,
dangerous place where one can see cold, heartless people on the other side and the other is
the area of land separating the Korean Peninsula. On a vaguely related note, remember World
War Two? Imperial Japan had Korea but then the US dropped a little boy and fat man over
Japan so at least the imperial part of Japan wasn’t a thing anymore and the US and USSR
swooped in and took hold of different parts of Korea. Basically, the USSR held this part,
the US held this part and the two country’s troops eventually left but the south was still
American influenced and the north was still Soviet influenced and Stalin got all Stalin-y
so two sides got to warring. Territory changed hands a bunch of times but despite their old
college try the two countries ended up looking pretty much exactly the same as before—minus
the couple million dead people, of course. But at least they ended up with this—the
demilitarized zone. This 2.5 mile, 4 kilometer wide buffer zone straddles the border between
North Korea, the country run with the level of expertise of a high school drama club,
and South Korea, the country that I will say nothing but nice things about since they actually
have internet access. There are plenty of military members within the Korean DMZ but
they’re restricted both in number and what they can do so it’s more of a somewhat militarized
zone. To the south of the DMZ, though, are mostly loads of South Korean and American
troops sitting around to make sure the northerners don’t pull a fast one and pop over the border
for some recreational Sunday war while to the north of it is somewhere between a zillion
and a bajillion troops and a full metric ton of artillery guns pointed at the south. Just
south of the Joint Security Area, the bit you probably most recognize from the news,
is the main touristy part of the DMZ—that’s right, the touristy part. One of the most
fortified borders in the world between two country’s still technically at war is a
tourist destination. Just read the comments are I’m sure you’ll see plenty from people
who have been exactly here. There’s even this cute little train that takes people to
the war zone. While the DMZ is largely devoid of humans,
two villages were allowed to remain under the terms of the armistice agreement—Daeseong-dong
in the south and Kijŏng-dong in the north. Daeseong-dong is a largely normal village
albeit with a heavy military presence given its location. A small quirk of the town is
that, in an effort to keep people there despite the very real threat of being kidnapped by
the north, residents pay no taxes and don’t have mandatory military service like other
South Koreans. In Daeseong-dong, back about 40 years ago, the South Korean government
built this rather nice 323 foot, 98 meter flagpole large enough to be seen by the north.
As one does, The North Korean government responded by building this 525 foot, 160 meter flagpole
in their beautiful town of Kijŏng-dong. Kijŏng-dong has hundred of families, schools
from nursery to high school, even a hospital, but wait. Enhance, enhance, enhance! Where
are the windows? You can see window panes, but no glass. And why can’t you see anything
inside? This makes about as much since as, “the for the fact it was to be for that
wood can.” And why in this village of supposedly hundreds or thousands can you only see three
people outside? And if an airplane wore pants would it be like this or like this? This super-real
North Korean town is looking awfully… fake. You see, in addition to the real technical
war going on, there’s also been for the past few decades a propaganda war by each
country trying to get the citizens of the other country to defect. They’ve both employed
a variety of techniques including blasting propaganda messages from loudspeaker over
the border and launching balloons carrying leaflets. They’ve stopped and started these
propaganda campaigns numerous times as relations have warmed and cooled, including a stop since
May, 2018, but on a longer term basis both country’s have been somewhat successful
in convincing those from the other country to sneak over the border—North Korea included.
This fake town that can clearly be seen from tourist viewing platforms and military outposts
is just one of the DPRK’s propaganda techniques. In the only place where most foreigners can
see the secretive country with their own eyes, they’re presenting themselves in the best
way they think they can. Unfortunately they failed to consider that a: telescopes exist,
and that b: towns are supposed to have people in them. The only people you see are caretakers
that some say are just North Korean military members in plainclothes who sweep the streets,
tend the fields, and turn the lights off and on. The South has essentially concluded at
this point that Kijŏng-dong’s only real residents are a few DPRK soldiers who man
the border security installations around the town. Having fake buildings to keep up appearances
is cool and all if you’re, like, Disneyworld, but when you’re a country with millions
starving it’s not a good look so if you become a maniacal dictator, don’t do this.
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