Kijŏng-dong is situated in North Korea’s half of the Demilitarized Zone. It is one of only two villages permitted to remain in the 2.5 mile DMZ set up under the 1953 armistice between the UN and the DPRK.
I took these shots with a 300mm Nikon lens about 100 feet from the actual border…in the company of the U.S. military. The official position of the North Korean government is that the village contains a 200-family collective farm, childcare center, clinic, and primary and secondary schools. U.S. and South Korean observation has noted that the village is basically empty.
The village was originally built to try to encourage South Korean soldiers to defect. The buildings were wired for electricity which was basically unheard of in the north or south in the 1950’s. Just as many parts of the capital of Pyonyang, Kijŏng-dong is built like a movie set. Most of the buildings are just concrete walls with no interior at all. Some of these buildings even have painted on windows. To keep up the illusion of a city there are workers moving about from time to time doing small tasks such as cleaning sidewalks.
The South Korean government put up a 323 ft. tall flagpole with a South Korean flag in the farming village just across the border called Daeseong-dong. The North Korean’s countered shortly thereafter and put up a 525 ft. tall flagpole.
Up until 2004, the DPRK had large speakers put on several of the buildings that continuously delivered North Korea propaganda broadcasts directed towards the south. The content originally consisted of promoting the North’s virtues and telling disgruntled soldiers and peasant farmers to walk across the border. As its value in promoting defections proved rather useless, the 20 hour a day content was switched to anti-Western propaganda speeches, Communist operas, and North Korean military songs.