With Korea in the Heart of Asia, Seoul-Pyongyang War Could Rattle the Continent

North Korean soldiers march in village of Panmunjom on the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing North and South Korea in November 2005. US lawmakers have submitted a bill to tightly restrict US travel to North Korea

This article originally appeared at Bloomberg:

A recent survey commissioned by the New York Times found that people who could find North Korea on a map were more likely to favor talks over military action. A glance at North Asia’s geography explains why.

More than six decades after the Korean War ended without a peace treaty, the peninsula remains bisected in a perpetual stalemate, with the U.S.-backed South Korean military lined up against more than a million North Korean troops. While tensions have occasionally flared — such as after Kim Jong Un’s weapons tests or threats of “merciless revenge” over American-led military exercises that began Monday — the two sides have so far staved off another devastating conflict.

The 250-kilometer (160-mile) border defined in a 1953 armistice lays bare one obvious peril of any confrontation: The demilitarized zone sits on the doorstep of the Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of South Korea’s 51 million people live.


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