The North/South Korean border looks like:

So there are at least 3 (or possibly more) borders that can be crossed:

  • The North Korea/DMZ border

  • The military demarcation line

  • The DMZ/South Korea border

I'm trying to understand what North Korean soldiers do to defectors under relevant international law and treaties. Specifically:

  • Which border(s) can they actually cross to capture the defector?

  • Which border(s) can they fire beyond, but not actually personally cross?

  • What are the repercussions of violating these? Would it be considered an attack on South Korea, or would it be merely a violation of the ceasefire, etc.?

  • Soldiers might cross the border for purposes other than capturing defectors. I've edited your title to reflect this. Dec 21, 2017 at 9:53
  • @JonathanReez: Interesting, so the precise purpose of crossing makes a significant difference?
    – user541686
    Dec 21, 2017 at 10:20
  • Only the N. Korea - S. Korea border?
    – DJohnM
    Dec 21, 2017 at 17:26
  • @DJohnM: Not sure what you mean?
    – user541686
    Dec 21, 2017 at 18:33
  • N Korea shares a land-border with China and a river border, (with railroad bridge) with Russia...
    – DJohnM
    Dec 22, 2017 at 1:00

1 Answer 1


The Korean War Armistice Agreement

1.In regards to which borders they can cross to capture a defecting soldier, they can't, unless the Military Armistice Commission says they can.

"7. No person, military or civilian, shall be permitted to cross the military demarcation line unless specifically authorized to do so by the Military Armistice Commission"

It appears that they can only fire outside of the DMZ

"6. Neither side shall execute any hostile act within, from, or against the demilitarized zone."

The commanders of the opposing sides are to determine the adequate punishment and it would be a violation of the cease-fire.

"(e) Insure that personnel of their respective commands who violate any of the provisions of this armistice agreement are adequately punished"

  • N.B. the language "Insure that personnel of their respective commands" in this answer means that S. Koreans, e.g., aren't obligated under the Armistice to punish N. Korean defectors, only their own personnel who violate the Armistice. There is no equivalent to the Fugitive Slave Act in the Armistice requiring someone who has illegally entered your territory to be returned to the place he or she illegally left.
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 3, 2018 at 18:12
  • +1 thanks! So are you saying North Korea violated the ceasefire by firing shots here?
    – user541686
    Jan 3, 2018 at 18:43
  • correct. they commited and act of hostility in the DMZ Jan 3, 2018 at 22:21

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