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Asia Minute: Barbed Wire Not “Beautiful” in Korea


As U.S. troops continue their presence along the southern border, they are putting up more razor wire. While this border is getting more barbed wire, there’s another famous dividing line between two countries where the trend is going the other way.

Miles of razor wire along the border of North and South Korea are coming down. Plenty will still remain in place, but South Korea’s Defense Ministry says about 175 miles of barbed wire will be removed over the next two or three years.

It’s not that defenses are coming down — at least part of this is about technology. Instead of that concertina razor wire stretched over fencing, border officials are moving to increased electronic monitoring equipment.

It’s also not just about security — at least part of this is related to aesthetics.

Earlier this month, President Trump said “barbed wire used properly can be a beautiful sight,” but that’s not a universal view. In fact, it’s been a longtime sore spot for many South Korean residents.

About three and a half years ago, the U.S. military publication Stars and Stripes quoted a spokesman for the Defense Ministry as saying that residents in one coastal area complained the barbed wire fencing was ugly.

Credit TravelingOtter / Flickr
Haeundae Beach - Busan, South Korea

The paper said local officials had complained for years that fencing hurt the region’s beauty and took a toll on the local economy — driving away tourists. That view has been echoed by other Oceanside communities — more than half the barbed wire fencing scheduled to be removed in the next stages of the plan is along coastal areas.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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