Kim's security: Not even an ant can pass through

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (middle C) is escorted by North Korean bodyguards as he walks from the North to the Military Demarcation Line that divides the two Koreas to meet with his South Korean counterpart at the truce village of Panmunjom on April 27, 2018.
PHOTO: AFP

When Pyongyang's leader Kim Jong Un came down the steps towards the inter-Korean border on Friday he was escorted by a phalanx of bodyguards carefully chosen for their fitness, marksmanship, martial arts skills, and even looks.

Men in sharp suits and matching blue and white striped ties fanned out ahead of and around Kim, as he approached the Military Demarcation Line for a historic handshake with his Southern counterpart Moon Jae-in.

Some of the men had bulging pockets.

North Korea is one of the world's most tightly controlled societies but even so security for its leader is iron-clad.

Foreigners attending any event where Kim will be present must go through hours of security procedures beforehand, and surrender all electronics, including phones.

The Guard Command, the military unit tasked with ensuring the safety of the leadership, is an elite institution close to the centre of North Korean power - it provides the centerpiece display of the annual kimjongilia and kimilsungia flower festivals in Pyongyang to honour Kim's father and grandfather.

Ri Yong Guk, a defector from the North who served on a security detail for Kim Jong Il, wrote in a 2013 memoir that as many as six different layers of security guards protected the leader on trips to the countryside to inspect military units, plants, or farms.

"It is one of the world's tightest security blankets through which even a single ant would find it hard to go," he wrote.

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Posted by TVBS 新聞 on Friday, April 27, 2018

The arrangements for the current leader are reportedly even tighter, and during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the foundation of its regular armed forces in February, Pyongyang paraded three kinds of security units dedicated to protecting Kim's life.

Kim was repeatedly seen accompanied by a stout military general in uniform with a holstered gun.

The protection afforded to the Kim family was also on display when the his sister, Kim Yo Jong, visited South Korea for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, accompanied by tall bodyguards with crew cuts, sunglasses, and earphones.

Kim Jong-un first N Korean leader to cross border into South since war

  • South Korean President Moon Jae-in, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Kim's wife Ri Sol Ju and Moon's wife Kim Jung-sook attend a farewell ceremony at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, South Korea, April 27, 2018.
  • North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (2nd L) and his wife Ri Sol Ju (L) toast with South Korea's President Moon Jae-in (2nd R) and his wife Kim Jung-sook (R) during the official dinner at the end of their historic summit at the truce village of Panmunjom on April 27, 2018.
  • The leaders of North and South Korea agreed Friday to pursue a permanent peace and the complete denuclearisation of the divided peninsula, as they embraced after a historic summit laden with symbolism.
  • The leaders of North and South Korea agreed Friday to pursue a permanent peace and the complete denuclearisation of the divided peninsula, as they embraced after a historic summit laden with symbolism.
  • Upon signing the document, the two leaders shared a warm embrace, the culmination of a summit filled with smiles and displays of friendship in front of the world’s media.
  • Upon signing the document, the two leaders shared a warm embrace, the culmination of a summit filled with smiles and displays of friendship in front of the world’s media.
  • Among the many spectacles Friday's inter-Korean summit offered was the two Korea's first ladies' first-ever meeting with one another, and the seemingly instant bond they formed.
  • The two were holding hands as they left the Peace House after the dinner, and did not let go of each other's hands until they reached an outdoor property where they watched a special performance celebrating the historic summit together.
  • And the two first ladies, in spite of seeing each other for the first time, seemed to have bonded well after the spring-themed banquet event.
  • And the two first ladies, in spite of seeing each other for the first time, seemed to have bonded well after the spring-themed banquet event.
  • Kim, who is some 30 years Ri's senior, extended a warm welcome and took her to the Peace House, where the summit had been taking place since earlier in the day.
  • In the afternoon, they planted a memorial tree and watered it with water from rivers in the South and North, before walking into a small glen along the border and across the blue footbridge for their private tete-a-tete as the sun set.
  • Moon would visit Pyongyang in “the fall”, the two leaders said, also agreeing to hold “regular meetings and direct telephone conversations”.
  • After the summit, he pledged that the two Koreas will ensure they did not “repeat the unfortunate history in which past inter-Korea agreements... fizzled out after beginning”.
  • The two previous Korean summits in 2000 and 2007, both of them in Pyongyang, also ended with displays of affection and similar pledges, but the agreements ultimately came to naught.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un crossed the border into South Korea for the first time on Friday. The two leaders were handed flowers by a South Korean boy and girl, residents of a village situated in the demilitarised zone.
  • Kim was greeted by the South’s president, Moon Jae-in ahead of the two Koreas’ first summit in more than a decade.
  • Kim said he felt a “swirl of emotion” as he walked the short distance to the border, wondering “why it took so long”, he told Moon later, at the beginning of their meeting.
  • The two leaders smiled and shook hands after which Kim Jong Un gestured to Moon they cross over to North Korea briefly, which they did for a few steps, then returned to the South, holding hands.
  • The two leaders smiled and shook hands after which Kim Jong Un gestured to Moon they cross over to North Korea briefly, which they did for a few steps, then returned to the South, holding hands.
  • A new period in inter-Korean history was beginning, Kim Jong Un said Friday at the opening of a summit with the South.
  • “I came here determined to send a starting signal at the threshold of a new history,” he told his host Moon Jae-in in the Demilitarized Zone, promising a “frank, serious and honest mindset”.
  • Kim wore glasses and his trademark black Mao suit, while the rest of the North Korean delegation appeared in military uniforms or Western attire.
  • Kim stopped to sign a guest book in the South’s Peace House before the two leaders met for a private discussion.
  • His message read: ""A new history begins now. At the starting point of history and the era of peace."
  • Kim escorted by his bodyguards as he makes his way to the Military Demarcation Line.
  • The two men went back to their separate sides for lunch, Kim driven in a black limousine and escorted by a dozen bodyguards in dark suits and ties jogging alongside the vehicle.
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the South’s President Moon Jae-in sat down at an oval table to begin their inter-Korean summit Friday, television footage showed.
  • Both leaders viewing the painting of Bukhansan at the Peace House
  • Walking on a red carpet rolled out for the two heads of state, the pair were met by a South Korean honour guard in historical costumes and playing traditional music.
  • The two are expected to talk denuclearisation and exchanges between the Koreas and also will plant a memorial tree at the border truce village of Panmunjom.

'SCARIEST PLACE ON EARTH'

Former United States president Bill Clinton once described the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides the peninsula and where Friday's historic summit was being held as "the scariest place on Earth".

Despite its name, the DMZ is among the most heavily fortified areas on the planet.

Around 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of the South Korean capital Seoul, the four-kilometer-wide space stretches for 250 kilometers across Korea and bristles with electric fences, minefields, and anti-tank barriers.

At the joint security area at Panmunjom the two sides, technically still at war, come face-to-face, with stern South Korean guards - also chosen for their height and looks - standing stock still only meters from the North Korean positions.

Soldiers are permitted to carry only sidearms in the area but it is an open secret that both sides have larger weapons stashed nearby for use in case of emergencies.

In November, a North Korean soldier defected under a hail of automatic rifle fire from his comrades.

Back in 1984, a 22-year-old Soviet tourist bolted from North Korea to South Korea at Panmunjom, triggering a gun battle in which three pursuing North Korean soldiers were killed, along with a Southern trooper, although defector Vasily Matuzok was unharmed.

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