Joint Security Area / Panmunjom
On 31 October 2004 the ownership of the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom was transfered from the United States and returned to the Republic of Korea. This transfer included a transfer of leadership of the security mission of patrolling the Panmunjom Peace Village and associated facilities. The US element of the United Nations Command Joint Security Battalion, which had been in the process of being reduced for some time prior, would continue to cooperate with the larger ROK contingent.
Among the provisions of the Armistice Agreement signed 27 July 1953, to bring a cease-fire in the Korean War, was establishment of the Military Armistice Commission, an agency to supervise implementation of the truce terms. Meetings of MAC representatives from the United Nations Command and the Korean People's Army/Chinese People's Volunteers were held at the Joint Security Area, an 800 meter-wide enclave, roughly circular in shape, that bisects the Military Demarcation Line separating South and North Korea.
The JSA was often called the "Truce Village," but was best known worldwide as Panmunjom. It was a village that was destroyed in the war, but gained lasting fame as the site where the Armistice Agreement was negotiated, even though it was actually signed by the opposing commanders, General Mark W. Clark, Commander- in-Chief, UNC, at Munsan south of the DMZ and by Marshal Kim Il Sung, KPA Supreme Commander, and Peng Teh-huai, Commander, CPV, at Kaesong in the north.
The major buildings in the JSA were set squarely on the MDL, which bisected the center of a green-felt-covered conference table inside the MAC Conference Room. Since the Commission headquarters of each side was located outside the conference area, in Seoul for the UNC and in Kaesong for the KPA/CPV, both sides maintained a Joint Duty Office at the JSA to provide continuous liaison. The JDOs would meet to pass communications from the senior member or secretary of their sides.
Military Police of both sides provided security for the JSA with guard forces of no more than 35 security personnel on duty at any given time. The administrative facilities for both guard forces are located within the JSA. The UN Command security forces were maintained by a US-ROK UNC Security Battalion. The total force fluctuated, with some 350 members of the ROK Army and 250 members of the United States military during the 1990s. Plans to reduce the US precense all over Korea resulted in a dramatic reduction in US personnel. By the time authority over the Joint Security Area was transfered to the Republic of Korea in 2004, the US component numbered only 40 personnel.
Also found in the JSA are the offices and conference room for the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission.
Military and civilian guests were permitted to visit the JSA as guests of the respective sides. Currently, the UNC sponsored nearly 100,000 visitors each year, most of them tourists who come on visits arranged by the Korea Tourist Bureau or military personnel whose visit was encouraged to ensure their better understanding of the situation in Korea. The KPA/CPV also bring guests, but these number less than 10,000 annually.
The Joint Security Area was one of the 42 camps north of Seoul authorized Hardship Duty Pay of $150 per month as of 1 January 2001. The Hardship Duty Pay is paid to troops who are permanently assigned to areas where it is authorized or who serve 30 consecutive days of temporary duty in those areas. Several factors are considered in determining whether a location qualified for the pay: climate, physical and social isolation, sanitation, disease, medical facilities, housing, food, recreational and community facilities, political violence, harassment and crime. The extra pay provides meaningful financial recognition to troops assigned in areas where living conditions are substantially below US standards.
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