Barbed wire, weapons and propaganda
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.