The world’s strangest border crossings

It’s been a while since I last posted on this blog, and so I thought I would recommence posting (hopefully posting more often) with something very relevant to recent global events and some food for thought.

Many of us are lucky to be living in regions of the world where peace exists and neighbouring countries maintain good relationships with each other. However, in some parts of the world relations between some countries continues to remain shaky and as a result the borders between these countries are highly monitored and can be very dangerous places. Even with the high level of risk in these locations, the following two border crossings have increasingly become tourist attractions because of their history and the rarity of these types of border crossings in the modern age.

The first of the two I’d like to share is the border crossing at Wagah between India and Pakistan, who have fought numerous wars against each other since British India was split into these two countries in 1947. The crossing falls between the cities of Lahore (Pakistan) and Amritsar (India), which are only about 60 km apart. Guards from both India and Pakistan patrol the border, and every evening a (rather amusing) ceremony is held by soldiers from both sides as seen in the following video.

The second border crossing is probably the most watched border crossing on the planet in the current time – between South Korea and North Korea. At the time of writing, relations between the two countries has reached its lowest point since the Korean War ended in 1953 (the two countries are still technically at war with each other). The recent incident involving the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea is largely a result of a dispute over the ownership and location of the border between the two countries. The history behind the current situation on the Korean Peninsula goes back over 100 years, starting with the Japanese occupation of Korea in 1910. Following World War II, Japan retreated from Korea and the country was split in two with the 38th parallel forming the the boundary between the US administered south and Soviet administered north. Lack of agreement between the two sides resulted in the Korean War (1950-53), with neither side gaining any ground. Between the two countries, roughly following the 38th parallel, there is a narrow strip of no-mans land which forms the Korean Demilitarised Zone and the most heavily guarded border in the world.

One of the few locations where North Korea and South Korea meet is at Panmunjom near the west coast. The label “border crossing” is a misnomer at this location, because no crossing is allowed here. Although there are numerous factories and tourist locations on the North Korean side of the border accessible from South Korea, the rest of North Korea is inaccessible from the South. Unlike the India-Pakistan border, the following videos show how tense the border is compared to the border at Wagah.

So to all Australians who read this – and anyone from other countries that do not share a land border with any other – next time you complain about how far away the rest of the world is, think about how lucky we are in that we don’t have the land border issues that some other countries face.

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