S Koreans may soon get chance to walk across fortified DMZ


Instgramming tourists may soon get the chance to reenact one of Asia’s most iconic moments in recent memory: April’s embrace between the leaders of the two Koreas.
Visitors to the Joint Security Area—where soldiers from the two sides have stood face to face for decades—will be able to freely cross the demarcation line “in the near future,” South Korea’s defense ministry said on Wednesday, without specifying a date. That includes South Korean nationals, who have been barred from taking part in such trips since 1953—except for a special reunion in which select elderly South Koreans were allowed to cross the border to visit relatives.
The ministry said it planned to work with relevant officials, including the US and the United Nations, to lift the restrictions as soon as possible.
Expect social media feeds to buzz with images of tourists embracing and stepping over the 50-centimeter (20-inch) wide cement slab at the border to recreate the April 27 meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in. The pair signed an agreement pledging to “transform the Demilitarized Zone into a peace zone,” to demonstrate their desire to end the still-unresolved Korean War.
Opening the border to tourists is one of several moves to ratchet down tensions on the Korean Peninsula since Kim opened the door to talks with Moon and US President Donald Trump earlier this year. The South Korean president signed a military relations pact during a visit to Pyongyang last month, including promises to remove landmines from the border zone and reduce the number of guard posts.
South Korean government officials were expected to visit the DMZ on Wednesday afternoon to observe the landmine removal. Moon’s chief of staff Im Jong-seok, Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon were among the those slated to attend.
Before the hug between Kim and Moon, the border was the site of several deadly clashes. It’s where North Koreans used an axe to kill two US soldiers sent to cut back a tree 42 years ago. Moon—then just 23—was among a group of soldiers later called out to ensure the tree-trimming was completed, according to his autobiography.
In November, a North Korean guard was shot half a dozen times by his fellow guards as he sprinted across the border to defect.

Seoul rejects refugee status for Yemenis

South Korea refused to grant refugee status to hundreds of Yemenis who fled their war-torn country to seek asylum on a resort island where local residents have been calling for them to be deported.
After months of review, the justice ministry instead issued temporary “humanitarian” visas to 339 Yemenis, allowing them to stay in South Korea for as long as a year. Review is pending on 85 Yemenis while 34 were rejected for the visa. The ministry previously granted temporary visas to 23 Yemenis.
Earlier this summer, more than 500 Yemenis fleeing their country settled in Jeju, a tourist island known for its beachfront resorts and its no-visa entry policy. Many arrived from Malaysia, where a new direct flight to the island was launched from Malaysia’s capital of Kuala Lumpur.
The asylum seekers sparked an uproar in South Korea, mirroring immigration debates in the US and Europe.

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