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Freedom Village Korean DMZ

South Korean carrier launches 5G in Korean DMZ village

Image credit: REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File Photo

According to a report from Reuters, a South Korean telecommunications provider has launched the next-generation mobile network in a community based in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ).

The South Korean telecommunications company KT Corp has launched a 5G service in Taesung Freedom Village: a community based in the southern part of the DMZ between North and South Korea. The Korean DMZ is a strip of land 4km wide running across the width of the Korean peninsula created by the Armistice Agreement in 1953. It serves as a neutral meeting point between North and South Korea, which technically remain at war after the Korean War ended in stalemate.

While the DMZ is mostly occupied by military units, there are two settlements based in the DMZ: Taesung Freedom Village (also known as Daeseong-dong) in the south and Peace Village (Kijŏng-dong) in the north. The 200-odd residents of the Freedom Village are descendants of those who owned the land before the Korean War, and they are closely guarded by the UN Command. They live approximately 400 metres from the heavily-armed border between the nations, meaning that they cannot leave their homes to work (most work in agriculture) without being escorted by soldiers for protection.

According to KT, access to the 5G network – which allows for considerably faster download speeds and lower latency – will give the community better access to online services like yoga classes, and will enable them to control their farm sprinklers and check soil conditions using their phones. The company has installed two 5G basestations, and all 46 homes in the village are connected through a control room on the first floor of the village centre.

“The world is very interested in the demilitarised zone, and we will help the 5G village become a hub for people around the world to know the need for unification of the Korean peninsula and the excellence of South Korea’s 5G,” said KT chairman Hwang Chang-gyu.

“Life here will get easier because villagers are normally escorted by military when they need to work on farms,” Chae Uk, a KT representative, told Reuters during a tour of Freedom Village. Chae said that the South Korean intelligence services had tested the basestations to ensure that the signals do not cross the border.

Despite 5G networks providing speeds up to 100x higher than 4G, KT warned that network speeds may be slower inside the heavily armoured village school. Children at the school will still be able to enjoy activities which make use of the network, however, such as mixed-reality sports games and coding education.

South Korea was the first country to deploy 5G on a large scale, with tens of thousands of basestations switching on their networks in April 2019, mostly in large cities. The South Korean government hopes that the rapid rollout of the next-generation network will enable technological breakthroughs and adoption, such as in connected cities, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and driverless vehicles.

“Now our place with so many restrictions and tensions in reality has a nice virtual life,” Mayor Kim Dong-gu said.

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