For decades, the DMZ has been a different kind of hot spot, the scene of sometimes deadly military provocations and daring defections from the North.
The zone, dotted with guard posts and strung with razor wire, was established after the 1950-1953 Korean War. The two Koreas still don’t officially recognize each other and remain in a technical state of war because the conflict ended in a truce, not a peace agreement.
Over a million landmines were laid in border areas including the DMZ and the Civilian Control Zone in the South, said Jeong In-cheol, a landmine expert at National Park Conservation Network.
But while public access is restricted, land within the 2km (1.2 mile) wide South Korean side of the DMZ and other border areas can still be purchased and registered.
Land transactions in Paju, gateway to the United Nations truce village of Panmunjom, more than doubled in March to 4,628 from February, government data shows. That far outstripped better known markets such as trendy Gangnam, where volumes were up just 9 percent.
In the settlement of Jangdan-myun, home to Dorasan Station — the last railway stop south of the border — transaction volumes surged four-fold from a year earlier. Land prices there rose 17 percent over the same period.
Kim Yoon-sik, a realtor with 25 years experience in Paju, says owners of the land in the DMZ include those who inherited farmland from ancestors in pre-Korean war days and some long term investors.
“With bids outnumbering offers, I often see sellers cancelling on preliminary contracts, it’s that hot,” Kim said.