Power Players

An inside tour of the ‘scariest’ place on earth

Political Punch

The demilitarized zone, or the DMZ, between North Korea and South Korea is arguably one of the most unique and dangerous places in the world. North and South Korea are, after all, still technically at war. They signed an armistice agreement in 1953, but that's basically a ceasefire, not a peace treaty that ends a war. In certain areas along the DMZ,  you can peer across and find a North Korean soldier staring back, watching.

President Obama came to the DMZ recently to get a firsthand look inside the most reclusive country in the world.

North Korea has bedeviled U.S. administrations for decades, leading to presidential visits by Ronald Reagan in 1983, President Bill Clinton — who described it as "the scariest place on Earth" — in 1993, and President George W Bush in 2002 -- all of them eager to get a glimpse inside one of the world's least understood countries.

Over the years there have been a number of skirmishes in the zone, one of the most infamous is known as the 'Axe Murder Incident.' On August 18, 1976, U.S. and South Korean soldiers were pruning a tree that was obstructing a view when North Korean soldiers arrived and demanded that they stop. The commander, U.S. Capt. Arthur Bonifas, refused, which led the North Korean soldiers to attack the U.S. and South Korean soldiers using tree trimming tools such as axes as weapons, killing 1st Lt. Mark Barrett and Capt. Bonifas. The U.N. post here is now named Camp Bonifas in his honor.

Today, North Korea remains as nefarious as ever. The third generation of the Kim family dynasty is still in charge. Despite on and off talks with the West, North Korea continues its quest toward building nuclear weapons and they have scheduled a satellite launch for mid-April, thought to be a missile test. In response, the U.S. is threatening to halt food aid, which will most likely hurt average North Koreans, not their leaders.
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