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South Korea Disputes ‘Concrete Wall’ Along Border

January 19, 1990

KIMHWA, South Korea (AP) _ The brigadier general stood on a wind-swept observation post overlooking the Demilitarized Zone and challenged observers Friday to find a barrier like the Berlin Wall on the bleak plain below.

″Kim Il Sung is a liar. Can you see any concrete wall as claimed by him?″ asked Brig. Gen. Kang Jong-pil.

Kim, North Korea’s Communist leader, had said South Korea built such a wall on the 2 1/2 -mile-wide DMZ to block free travel between the nations, and he called on South Korea to tear it down.

Kang, a deputy army division commander, was briefing about 100 foreign reporters allowed for the first time to visit two front-line units on the 155- mile border as part of Seoul’s effort to disprove the North Korean claim.

The identity of Kang’s unit was withheld as a military secret.

The Korean DMZ is one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world and sealed off by more than 1.5 million troops on both sides. The nations are still technically at war since no peace treaty was signed at the end of the Korean War in 1953.

There were no concrete walls as claimed by Kim in the two South Korean units visited by foreign reporters on Thursday. At Kang’s unit, a 1.6-mile- long anti-tank obstacle was shown to the press.

″I am not sure but I think this is the very concrete wall that Kim Il Sung mentioned in his New Year’s address,″ the general said through an interpreter.

″If we remove these tank traps, it is just like giving them guarantee for free passage of tanks,″ he said.

The general said Kim, apparently embarrassed by sweeping changes in East Europe, is believed to have mentioned the non-existent concrete wall.

″It’s nothing but false propaganda aimed at shifing responsibility for national division to the South,″ he said.

The general said anti-tank barriers are set up along only 12 percent of the 12-mile frontline in his unit’s sector. No tank traps were seen at the other adjacent unit visited by the reporters.

The anti-tank obstacle shown at Kim’s unit, 16 1/2 feet high and 21 feet wide at its bottom, is made of rocks, cement and dirt. It lies just outside the DMZ across a vast open field that formed one of the bloodiest battlefields during the Korean War.

About 19,000 troops on both sides were killed or wounded in battles in the plain and a nearby ridge during the three-year war, Kang said.

At the start of the Korean War, North Korea threw in nearly a third of its 250 tanks to occupy the area and they rolled to Seoul, 50 miles away, in three days, he said.

According to the general, North Korea, has also fortified its own sector of the DMZ with multiple electric fences and two lines of anti-tank barriers.

Kang said all South Korean barriers have been built outside the DMZ but one of North Korea’s anti-tank obstacles is located inside the DMZ, a clear violation of the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement.

Reporters could not verify Kang’s claim through binoculars because of hazy weather.

At a nearby unit 25 miles away, reporters were takne to a guard post inside the southern sector of the DMZ, where they heared North Korea’s broadcasts blaring propaganda criticizing the United States as well as South Korea.

″If Yankees go home, the Korean peninsula will become a paradise,″ the barely audible broadcasts said.

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