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UNC’s authority on giving permission to enter DMZ should be reviewed: minister

Regulations should be revised on the United Nations Command’s authority to give entry permission into the Demilitarized Zone, Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul said Monday.

During a parliamentary inspection session, Kim said the system should be revised to allow South Korea’s entry into the DMZ for nonmilitary purposes, while maintaining the area safely, as Rep. Chun Jung-bae pointed out there have been several cases where the UNC rejected entry requests into the area for “unconvincing reasons.”

Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul (Yonhap)
Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul (Yonhap)

“There have been differences (between the ministry and the UNC) on entering the DMZ and crossing the Military Demarcation Line. But we have been closely cooperating to reduce the differences in opinion,” Kim said.

The DMZ bordering North Korea is currently controlled by the US-led UNC, which holds the authority to give entry permits to the area.

Kim explained that the UNC’s authority on permitting access into the DMZ is limited to military activities according to the armistice agreement, and that the command lacks legal grounds to prohibit South Korea from conducting environment or heritage inspections there, or visiting the Guard Post.

The two Koreas had agreed last year on connecting and modernizing the now-defunct inter-Korean railways, one of which links Seoul and Sinuiju in North Korea. However, the inter-Korean project was once brought to a halt at the last minute in August last year, when the UNC rejected crossing the MDL for a joint inspection.

There is no legal procedure that South Korea can undertake to appeal the UNC’s rejection of an entry permit, Kim added.

By Jo He-rim (