Panmunjom is a name that is inextricably linked to 20th century Korean history. The name means “board framed shop” and is reputed to derive from a tavern that was built on the shore at a crossing point for the Sachon River. The village that sprung up around that area then took the name.
Panmunjom took its place in world history beginning in June, 1951 when it became the location for armistice talks between the two warring sides in the Korea War and then the place where the actual armistice agreement was signed finally on July 27, 1953. It now includes the site of the Military Armistice Commission (MAC) and other meeting halls, called “Conference Row”, that are built exactly straddling the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) that divided North and South Korea at the conclusion of the Armistice process.
Although the entire area of the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) that extends for 1.5 mi./2 kms. on each side of the MDL and for the entire width of the Korean peninsula (150 mi./240 km.), is in fact “de-militarized, the area on each side of the DMZ is one of the most heavily fortified in the world. When visiting Panmunjom, however, little of this firepower is visible to tourists and all the military personnel within the DMZ are unarmed to help reduce the chances of an accidental “incident.”