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S. Korea halts Panmunjom tour again over armed N. Korean troops in DMZ

Nov. 30, 2023 - 19:54 By Yonhap
North Korean soldiers are spotted near a guard post inside the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas in this photo provided by the South Korean defense ministry, Nov. 27, 2023. (Yonhap)

A tour program to the truce village of Panmunjom on the inter-Korean border has been suspended again as safety concerns increased due to North Korean soldiers armed with pistols in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, the unification ministry said Thursday.

The government partially resumed the tour program on Nov. 22, after it had been halted since mid-July following US Army private Travis King crossing the border into North Korea.

But the ministry said it has recently decided to suspend the program again, as North Korea has begun rebuilding guard posts and bringing heavy firearms along the border after effectively scrapping a 2018 inter-Korean military tension reduction deal.

"As North Korean troops are carrying pistols in the Joint Security Area in the DMZ while South Korean soldiers remain unarmed there, we've decided not to run the Panmunjom tour for the time being," a ministry official said.

North Korea said last week it will restore all military measures halted under the 2018 military accord with South Korea in response to Seoul's partial suspension of the deal over Pyongyang's launch of a military spy satellite.

Unification Minister Kim Yung-ho had plans to visit the truce village with the press on Dec. 5, but the schedule was canceled.

The United Nations Command oversees activities in the DMZ as an enforcer of the armistice that halted the 1950-53 Korean War. (Yonhap)