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The hidden village just metres from North Korea | BBC News

Behind the bared wire of korea's demilitarized zone sits a tiny village this village represents the hope of one day reunifying the korean peninsula nestled in the heart of what's otherwise a no man's land here a community of south koreans live in the shadow of their enemy north korea as young people shun a life of semic captivity its numbers are dwindling along with the hope korea will ever be reunified our journey into the demilitarized zone begins at dawn we pass check point after checkpoint accompanied by commander chris mardo freedom main this is freedom 6 over see this kind of blue archway and the white sign beyond it we're now entering the demilitarized zone this is the most militarized border in the world hundreds of rounds of artillery point in both directions and securing this level of access is incredibly rare to our left and to our right we have active mine fields there's more than 2 million mines inside of the dmz freedom main freedom main freedom three as we drive towards north korea we reach a small cluster of homes this is the village of tung home to 138 people many now in their 60s and over kimdong ray was here long before the korean war would decide the village's peculiar fate the communist troops have invaded southern korea a set of documents is signed by general harrison when a ceasefire brought an end to the fighting the demilitarized zone was created to keep the two waring armies apart all the villages inside this 2 and 1 half mile wide buffer zone were cleared but teong was allowed to remain along with a village to the north to serve as a symbol of peace and hope that one day korea would be reunified dong ray's husband was shot in the stomach by north korean soldiers and later died from his injury leaving her to raise their six children in a perpetual state of high alert there are no shops restaurants or medical facilities here and dong ray's life has been stressful and lonely what do you leave the village for these days the residents farm for their living with extreme isolation comes an abundance of land do you pay much attention to where the relations between north and south korea are good or bad the village is secured by an elite battalion of soldiers from the united nations command a us-led army made up of soldiers from more than a dozen countries they're supported by south korean troops usa na that's right the villagers are grateful for their protection and these displays of affection are common from the roof of the town hall we get a clear view into north korea so from where we're at right now we can see from left to right and right to left a heavily wooded area denotes the border between north and south korea there are no fences there are no barriers and there are no walls that separate north and south so there is nothing to physically stop the north koreans from walking over into this village here except for us except for you that's right north korea has also been allowed to keep one village inside the dmz the village of kijong though no one is thought to live there now given the north koreans have decided to abandon this village and they don't have people living there why do you keep people living here at such obvious cost to you guys and such risk many people believe that both tong dong and gongdong exist in the hope of one day reunifying the korean peninsula failing that perhaps one day it could pave the way for the normalization of relations between the two careers what would happen if it disappeared it would be a very strong symbol right that that the terms of the armistice are no longer being enforced as we're preparing to move on we're alerted to a threat we were planning just now just to walk up here a couple of hundred meters to a field closer to the north korean border but we've just found out in the last half hour that a group of north koreans have defected directly down here to the south and so we've just been told by the security team here that it's too dangerous to go there because the north korean guards it's likely are going to be on high alert and it is a reminder that although in some ways this village feels very peaceful the situation is incredibly unpredictable given the risks it might seem strange anyone would choose to live here but those who were born here like park pils sun have their history swn into this land the ceasefire line cut him off from his brother did you ever think that 70 years later north and south korea would still be divided you why have you stayed living in the village all these years the villagers are under no obligation to live here habit and necessity are the reasons so many have stayed put rather than a belief in the role they're playing once the risk from the defection has gone we're taken out to the fields bordering north korea this is designated a high risk field meaning these armed soldiers must stand guard while the resident harvests the last of his season's rice.

The village may takes us as close to the border as we can get what's that we can hear now the residents are on the front line of escalating tensions between the north and south earlier this year north korea branded the south its number one enemy and said reunification was no longer possible both sides have increased their military presence inside the dm z meaning the villagers are offered some serious perks to persuade them to stay here they don't pay taxes or rent all serve in the military kim gun ray fought to save this land at the age of 16 but his six daughters have all left the village bound for soul sleepy tung can no longer compete with the bright lights and opportunities of modern day south korea yun kung is mr kim's third daughter she left as a teenager to go to school and never came back has it been sad for you over the years having all six of your daughters leave the village for years women have been at a disadvantage here while men were allowed to marry outside the village and bring their wives in women were not forcing them to leave to find love in the past decade the village has shrunk by a third as the old die and the young leave as darkness descends the threat from north korea.

rises the soldiers go door too to check everyone safely inside the villagers need permission to leave their home homes after 7:0 this curfew is the most restrictive part of village life as a young couple with two small children the shin family is unusual mis met ginho at a party and he convinced her to move in do you think young people can be convinced to stay here their children attend the village primary school there are so few children that most pupils are bust in from outside what do you like about living here to fore.

fore an increasing number of south koreans no longer believe in reunification or even want it and as this dream dies it's getting harder to convince people to live here on the front line of a conflict that might never be resolved.

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