When we were living in Taiwan, we flew to Jinmen Island for a weekend. A tropical paradise in all respects, save the minefields, barbed wire, and heavily-armed soldiers patrolling the shore. Jinmen is only a few kilometers off the coast of China. We could see giant neon signs in the mainland city of Xiamen urging the Taiwanese to return to the motherland. Massive speakers boomed the same message across the water, and there we were, without iPods.
Within the DMZ are two villages, Taesong-dong and Gijeong-dong. Taesong-dong in the South, a functioning farming community of 219 souls living under the gaze of ever vigilant North Korea. The South Korean government guarantees these farmers a full sale on their crop, regardless of its size and quality. Consequently, these are the best paid rice farmers in the world, with an average annual income of 82000 US dollars. The downsides include a nightly curfew, limited travel allowances, and the dubious distinction of being the first to be trampled should the North begin their march southward.
When translated directly from the hangeul, Gijeong-dong means Peace Village. The UN forces refer to it exclusively as Propaganda Village. With their high-powered binoculars and fancified Google Earth technology, the US soldiers see only a few caretakers turning the lights on and off. Until 2004, this North Korean skeleton crew would press play on giant speakers, which blared propaganda messages between six and twelve hours a day. We're not sure what was in Kim Il-sung's or Chairman Mao's heads when they conceived of the "blast screechy music at them until they come back" plan. Occasionally a Gijeong-dong maintenance crew comes in to add a coat of paint to the buildings' facades. They don't do windows though, which works out, as most of the buildings don't have any. Most impressive about the Gijeong-dong skyline is the world's largest flagpole, seen here flying its 30 m long, 280 kg flag. At 158 m, the North's pole dwarfs its 98 m Taesong-dong counterpoint. Sigmund Freud would like it here.