Tensions rise after North and South Korea exchange gunfire in the demilitarized zone

The South Korean military said it retaliated with two rounds of gunfire after North Korea fired at a guard post.

North and South Korea exchanged gunfire in the demilitarized zone early on Sunday, May 3, the South Korean military said. The exchange of gunfire happened after North Korea fired at South Korean guard post in the border town of Cheorwon.

According to the South Korean military statement, after North Korea fired the South retaliated with "two rounds of gunfire and a warning announcement according to our manual."

It is not clear what provoked the gunfire but the North hasn't fired directly against the South in around five years. There has been no report of causalities till now.

"We are taking actions via inter-Korean communication lines to grasp the detailed situation and to prevent any further incidents. And we also maintain a necessary readiness posture," said the statement by South Korea.

The Demilitarized Zone was set up after the Korean war in 1953. The war ended in a truce and not a peace treaty leading to the constant exchange of gunfire for a long period of time. This is said to be a buffer zone between the two countries. The event took place a day after the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reemerged in public after a three-week absence which sparked speculations about his health around the world.

Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea
Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea Wikimedia Commons

World's most fortified border

The border or the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea is 248-kilometre-long, 4-kilometer-wide (154-mile-long, 2.5-mile-wide). It is also one of the most heavily fortified borders. Between the borders, there are 2 million mines which are scattered inside and near the zone. The DMZ also has barbed wire fencing, tank traps and combat troops on both sides.

As part of reducing the tensions, the two Korean nations began dismantling the mines in the zone. According to reports the last time a gunfire took place in the DMZ was when a North Korean soldier fled to South Korea in 2017.