Barbed wire, weapons and pro­pa­ganda

North Harbour News - - OUT & ABOUT - AMY BAKER

Life at the South Korean border is a far cry from his start in Hob­sonville, but it’s where Rob Bex­ley is sta­tioned for peace keep­ing.

For the past two months, the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) flight lieu­tenant has worked at an as­sis­tant cor­ri­dor con­trol of­fice in the trans­port cor­ri­dor of the de­mil­i­tarised zone (DMZ) which sep­a­rates North and South Korea.

Tasks in­clude do­ing a daily pa­trol in the cor­ri­dor and con­duct­ing in­spec­tions at guard and ob­ser­va­tion posts.

Bex­ley needs to make sure South­ern Korean troops com­ply with de­fen­sive mea­sures and un­der­stand the rules of en­gage­ment when they en­counter mem­bers of North Korea’s Korean Peo­ple’s Army (KPA).

‘‘The dan­ger is any lit­tle provo­ca­tion from ei­ther side - it can quickly es­ca­late. So our job is to ed­u­cate [South Korean troops], so they know how to de-es­ca­late a sit­u­a­tion, or so they don’t es­ca­late un­nec­es­sar­ily.’’

In­ter­preters are used to com­mu­ni­cate with troops.

The for­mer Hob­sonville res­i­dent works un­der the US-led United Na­tions Com­mand Mil­i­tary Ar­mistice Com­mis­sion Sec­re­tariat (UNCMAC-S).

The sec­re­tariat su­per­vises the 1953 Ar­mistice Agree­ment that sus­pended hos­til­i­ties be­tween North Korea and United Na­tions forces de­fend­ing South Korea.

Bex­ley lives at Camp Boni­fas in Pan­munjom, a United Na­tions Com­mand mil­i­tary post lo­cated 400 me­tres south of the south­ern bound­ary of the DMZ.

Life up at the border, with it’s barbed wire and weapons, is a world away from ’’busi­ness as usual’’ in the cap­i­tal of Seoul, said Bex­ley.

Day-to-day chal­lenges in­clude the lan­guage and the re­minder of con­flict.

‘‘You get quite a strange, eerie feel­ing when you’re walk­ing in the DMZ or trans­port cor­ri­dor, be­cause it’s this big high­way that’s not used at all. It’s be­com­ing over­grown, it’s very quiet, un­til the pro­pa­ganda broad­casts be­gin.’’

Both par­ties blast pro­pa­ganda from their re­spec­tive sides of the DMZ, each up­ping the vol­ume to drown out the other. Bex­ley will re­turn to New Zealand in around four months to Up­per Hutt, where he and his fam­ily now live.

‘‘It’s what I joined the mil­i­tary for, to rep­re­sent my coun­try and try and do some good in the world,’’ he said.

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