Breaking News
Investing Pro 0
Cyber Monday Extended SALE: Up to 60% OFF InvestingPro+ CLAIM OFFER

Harris to be latest dignitary to make 'bucket list' visit to North Korea border

World Sep 28, 2022 08:41PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: South Korean and U.S. soldiers stand guard in the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, South Korea, July 19, 2022. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/Pool/File Photo

By Josh Smith

SEOUL (Reuters) -When U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris makes an expected visit to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas on Thursday, she will be the latest in a long list of dignitaries - and tourists - coming to gaze into secretive North Korea.

The DMZ is a relic of the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty, and despite its name, is highly fortified from coast to coast with razor wire, heavy armaments and tank traps on either side of a 4 km-wide buffer.

It's a symbol of a divided peninsula, separated families, geopolitical tension, and bloody military clashes. The area has also become a surreal tourist destination, with outlet malls, theme parks, hiking trails, and other attractions, at least on the South Korean side.

U.S. presidents and numerous top officials have visited the zone, often wearing military-style jackets and usually arriving with messages of support for the alliance that keeps nearly 30,000 American troops in South Korea.

"It's symbolic in that these guys want to show that they are interested in the DMZ and the security of the peninsula, and it’s a bucket list item as well," Steve Tharp, a retired U.S. Army officer who spent years facilitating DMZ visits by everyone from politicians and generals to the American comedian Conan O'Brien, who filmed a skit on the North Korean side of the border.

Ronald Reagan was the first U.S. president to visit the DMZ, but Bill Clinton and Donald Trump are the only sitting presidents to have visited the Joint Security Area (JSA), a cluster of buildings that hosts talks, and the only spot where troops from both sides stand face to face, he said.

When Clinton visited in 1993, he walked to the Bridge of No Return, which spans the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) that forms the border, and got its name when prisoners of war marched across it.

Clinton - who once called the DMZ "the scariest place on Earth" - reportedly kept asking whether he'd gone further than any other president, Tharp said.

He had. At least until Trump became the first U.S. president to step briefly into North Korea, when he met leader Kim Jong Un on the border in 2019 for hastily arranged talks that ultimately failed to breath life into stalled denuclearisation talks.

"He tweeted from Japan on a Saturday about 8 a.m. and he arrived 24 hours later and was in the DMZ by 1:30 p.m. and walked across the MDL to meet Kim Jong Un," a former senior U.S. defence official said.

"That was sporty, but we had a great team and it went off without a hitch."


George W. Bush had been scheduled to visit on his first trip to South Korea as president in late 2001, but the Sept. 11 attacks derailed the plan and when he finally visited the next year, it was to an observation post set back from the border and protected with a bulletproof glass shield, Tharp said.

Harris will be the first senior official from President Joe Biden's administration to visit the DMZ, and U.S. and South Korean officials said the trip is aimed at underscoring the alliance between Seoul and Washington in the face of any threats posed by North Korea.

"It sends a clear message of support for the alliance from the White House," the former senior official said.

Biden visited the DMZ before he became president but decided not to go during his first trip to South Korea as president this year.

During the last round of heightened tensions in 2017, then-U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited the DMZ, calling it the "frontier of freedom" and later saying he visited because he wanted the North Koreans to "see our resolve in my face".

North Korea has isolated itself more than ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began and its border guards at the DMZ rarely venture out, often donning protective suits when they do.

Weeds have overgrown the North Korean side of the line between the two Koreas where Trump and Kim stood shaking hands in 2019.

Harris to be latest dignitary to make 'bucket list' visit to North Korea border

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Post also to:
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Comments (1)
Stephen Fa
Stephen Fa Sep 28, 2022 6:08PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Meanwhile, the southern US border is invaded.
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Continue with Google
Sign up with Email