Camp Humphreys, Republic of Korea. –
United Nations Command service members and support staff attended a tour of the Joint Security Area and Camp Bonifas, Oct. 20, 2020, prior to the official reopening of public tours on Nov. 6, 2020.
For most it was their first time visiting the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea and an opportunity to hear some of the history; a history that is sometimes best told through the stories of those are assigned to the area.
Lt. Cmdr. Daniel McShane, Joint Duty Officer for the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission, has been living at Camp Bonifas for almost 8 years and has plenty of stories to share.
“We have been here for almost seven decades,” said McShane, gesturing to the framed picture of the day the armistice was signed, which has been hanging on the wall since 1953. “We are always hopeful for a peace treaty and improved diplomatic relations, and our presence here aims to create an environment which can facilitate that.”
Staff at the JSA have historically run tours for both service members and the public, but tours have been suspended for almost a year due to an outbreak of African Swine Fever. The tours will soon be offered again on a regular basis; with some added considerations due to COVID-19 that will ensure adequate social distancing and continued public safety.
“A big part of our r
ole here at the JSA is to increase the knowledge of the security situation up here,” said McShane. “We aim to support the stability of the armistice and promote the continued prosperity of the Republic of Korea.”
During the tour, UNC staff members were given the opportunity to see multiple sites around the JSA, including; the historic Conference Row the Bridge of No Return, the blue footbridge, upon which South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un walked together during their first summit in 2018, and memorials to incidents that have occurred since the signing of the armistice.
“It’s important to give our staff the opportunity to see what we actually do up here on a day-to-day basis, said Maj. Griff Hofman, International Political-Military Affairs Officer for UNC. “There is a lack of knowledge and a misconception about what we do here; events like this help us to understand the critical role we play in maintaining the armistice agreement and the place of contact with the Korean People’s Army.”
Among those who attended the orientation tour were multinational representatives of UNC, including; Australia, France, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, and the United States.
“Our role in the UNC is to create an environment on the peninsula which can enable peace to happen,” said Maj. Hofman. “We try to temper the actions and reactions on both sides; with the eventual goal being the signing of an official peace treaty and a permanent end to the hostilities.”
Things have changed substantially at the JSA since a series of trilateral negotiations in late 2018. Members of United
Nations Command, the Republic of Korea military, and the north’s Korean People’s Army successfully negotiated the disarmament of the JSA, closure of guard posts, the sharing of closed circuit television feeds, and a reduction in guard force personnel.
Informative tours, like the one attended by UNC staff members offer a unique perspective on our continued progress toward peace and the importance of UNC’s presence on the peninsula.
For more information on JSA tours open to the public please visit http://www.panmuntour.go.kr