Rivlin Tours Korean Demilitarized Zone: 'This Place Can Endanger Global Peace'

Israeli president technically crossed into North Korea during trip, where he was photographed by North Korean soldiers

President Reuven Rivlin visits the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas, as a North Korean soldier takes a picture of him.
Kobi Gideon / GPO

SOUTH KOREA  –  President Reuven Rivlin visited the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between South Korea and North Korea on Wednesday and received a briefing by American forces stationed there. 

The briefing took place at the House of Freedom, a UN compound often used for meetings which is situated between North Korean and South Korea territories.

By sitting in the northern wing of the building, Rivlin technically crossed into North Korea.

President Rivlin takes a look at North Korea through binoculars during a visit to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between South Korea and North Korea on Wednesday, July 17, 2019.

Rivlin's visit comes in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump's June trip there, which made him the first-ever sitting president to set foot in the reclusive country. 

At one point during the visit, four North Korean soldiers approached Rivlin from the North Korea side of the building and took pictures of him. Rivlin was photographed waving back at them. "We are in one of the most explosive places in the world, like the crater of a volcano that can erupt at any moment," the president said at the end of his tour. "There is an equilibrium between the two forces preventing an outbreak, but much like sitting on the top of a volcano – we can never know when it will explode," Rivlin added. 

"The eyes of the whole world are on this place, just like they are on the Middle East," Rivlin went on. "We come, we look and we understand to what point this sort of explosive places can endanger global peace," he added.

Rivlin also added his signature to the brick wall at the spot which is traditionally signed by world leaders during state visits. Next to his signature, the president wrote: “God bless you all.” Next to the brick that he signed, his South Korean hosts dedicated a brick to Nechama Rivlin, the president's late wife who passed away last month

President Rivlin during a visit to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between South Korea and North Korea on Wednesday, July 17, 2019.

During the visit, a series of agreements on academic cooperation were signed, including programs for student exchanges, joint research and cooperation in the areas of innovation, entrepreneurship and nanotechnology. 

The Korean demilitarized zone extends across the Korean peninsula and serves as a buffer zone between the two Koreas. It was created at the end of the Korean War in 1953 and is the most armed border in the world. Along it are sniper positions, mined areas, bunkers and barbed wire that prevent people from entering from north and south. 

The two countries have nearly two million soldiers, and around 37,000 American soldiers as well as a large group of UN observers are stationed in the South Korean region. The demilitarized zone is also a thriving nature reserve: It boasts more than 1,100 plant species and 51 mammal species, which account for 67 percent of South Korean flora and fauna.