North Korea building border ‘wall’, satellite images reveal

By Jake HortonYi MaDaniele PalumboBBC Verify

BBC Satellite images showing sections of border 'wall'BBC

New dish pictures reveal that North Korea is installing portions of what appear to be walls in various locations close to its border with South Korea.

Additionally, images captured by BBC Verify reveal that land has been cleared inside the Demilitarized Zone ( DMZ), which is considered to be in violation of the long-standing truce with South Korea.

The DMZ is a 4 km ( 2,5 miles ) wide buffer zone between North and South Korea, who are technically still at war despite never signing a peace treaty. The DMZ is divided into two parts, with each area being under the control of its own countries.

This new activity is “unusual”, according to authorities, and comes at a time of rising tensions between the two places.

Shreyas Reddy, a journalist at the Seoul-based professional website NK News,” At this point we can only assume that North Korea is looking to improve its military appearance and walls along the border.”

Two satellite images showing the construction of what appears to be a wall near the North Korean border

As part of a job to examine changes North Korea was making to the region, BBC Verify requested high-resolution satellite pictures of a 7 km stretch of the border.

At least three areas of the border have been covered by restrictions, which are located close to the southeast end of the frontier, according to these images.

Along another stretches of the frontier, it’s probable that there has been additional challenge construction.

Due to the lack of high-resolution pictures in the area, the precise time construction began is unknown. These buildings were no discernible in an photograph taken in November of 2023, though.

According to Dr. Uk Yang, a military and defense analyst at Seoul’s Asan Institute for Policy Studies,” this is the first moment they’ve ever built a hurdle in the sense of separating places from one another.”

Two satellite images showing before and after construction of sections of what appears to be a wall near North Korean border

” North Korea had constructed the anti-tank walls in the 1990s to halt the progress of tanks in the event of a warfare.” But lately, North Korea has been setting up windows 2- 3m high, and they do n’t seem like the extra- tank surfaces”, Dr Yang says.

” The design of the rooms suggests that they are not only obstacles]for vehicles ], but are intended to break an area”, adds Dr Yang, who reviewed the satellite images.

There is also proof of property clearance on the DMZ’s North Korean area.

Two satellite images showing the clearing of land near the North Korean border

What appears to be a newly constructed access road can be seen in the most recent satellite imagery of the southeast limit.

We have taken inspiration from the BBC’s studies on border mapping by drawing the exact northern boundary of the DMZ on the above map. This is because the limit maps available have a few minor variations. However, all of the DMZ’s versions show property clearing.

The defense had identified continued activity related to the “reinforcement of military roads, the dropping of mines, and the opening of desert,” according to a joint statement from the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) of South Korea.

According to Prof Kil Joo Ban, professor of global surveillance at Korea University,” the land opening may be intended for both military and non-military factors.”

For North Korea to track military activity in South Korea and to identify “defectors who attempt to cross the boundary to South Korea,” he claims, “it makes centre content simply established.”

Getty North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, right, raise hands togetherGetty

According to Prof. Victor Cha, senior vice president for Asia and Korea at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, “it is strange to construct buildings in the DMZ and may be a contravention of the armistice without previous consultation.”

The Korean War ended in 1953 with an ceasefire, in which both sides pledged not to “execute any hostile work within, from, or against the demilitarised area”. But there was no last peace arrangement.

Reunification has always seemed doubtful to North Korean leaders, but until Kim Jong Un made the announcement that his nation had no longer follow that ambition at the beginning of 2024.

Some experts described the remarks as “unprecedented” and observed a major policy change when Mr. Kim first described South Korea as a “principal foe” at the beginning of this season.

The North has also started removing symbols that represent the two countries ‘ unification since then, including erasing government sites and destroying monuments.

Dr. Ramon Pacheco Pardo, head of European and International Studies at Kings College London, says that while North Korea does n’t really need more barriers to avert a strike from the South, it is signaling that it wo n’t seek reunification by erecting these border barriers.

Some researchers believe that this fits with Mr. Kim’s wider behavior.

Dr. Edward Howell, a researcher on the Vietnamese Peninsula, says that North Korea does not even pretend to want to deal with the United States or South Korea and has rejected latest attempts by Japan to do so.

We should n’t be surprised if inter-Korean provocations increase this year because of North Korea’s warming relations with Russia.