Monday, November 10, 2014

Guide to Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) anti-vehicle barriers on the South Korea side of the DMZ

Gate guards: Like silent sentinels, a daunting array of anti-vehicle barriers guard a bridge near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on South Korea's side of the border. Vehicles moving along the bridge have to negotiate portable barriers in a slalom-like course while under constant observation from sentries at either end of the bridge. When on high-alert, gates on either side of the bridge are pulled to seal off the bridge completely.

For a country that makes most of the war machines in its arsenal, South Korea has opted for simple yet apparently effective measures to safeguard key avenues of approach in one of the world's most heavily-fortified borders.

Unlike Singapore's border checkpoints and entrances to key installations here which have mechanical cat claws installed as anti-vehicle barriers, roads and bridges near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on South Korea's side of the border are protected by portable barriers designed to stop, slow down or obstruct speeding vehicles. The image above shows the range of barricades typically seen at checkpoints around the DMZ.

These include road blocks festooned with metal spikes, miniaturised versions of the Czech hedgehog (usually fielded as anti-tank barriers) and barricades on wheels that allows Republic of Korea (ROK) troops to quickly reposition such barriers. These passive defences are complemented by fortified positions whose arcs of fire cover the barricaded areas as well as avenues of approach leading to the checkpoints.

No frills anti-vehicle devices
Simple, low maintenance and effective against soft-skin vehicles, the South Korean security barricades do away with the possibility that mechanical barriers may fail when they are needed most - which was the case in March 2014 when a Mercedes-Benz speed past a cat claw barrier that failed to deploy properly at Singapore's Woodlands Checkpoint.

Few speeding vehicles are likely to get past their spike road blocks and nasty looking rollers with spikes with their tyres intact. It's a disarmingly low-tech approach to anti-intrusion devices in an age where defence contractors will try to hawk all manner of fancy (read: expensive and maintenance intensive) mechanical barriers for your front gate.

But the devices fielded by the ROK forces work.

Do not confuse the no frills approach to anti-vehicle barriers with lack of know-how in defence engineering on the part of the South Koreans. Their defence industrial base is years ahead of what we have in Singapore.

If you know what to look for, you may notice that ample examples of top notch defence engineering abound in the DMZ from fortified construction to long-range observation devices and assorted electronic devices that provide earning warning of signs of attack.

Where it matters, the South Koreans seem to spare no effort at keeping their borders safe.

ROK sentries stop and check all vehicles moving towards the fortified border area with North Korea.

Close view of the miniaturised Czech hedgehogs (left), spike road block, sentry post and the retractable gate that moves on rails set into the road. The barricades are light enough to be repositioned rapidly during a high alert.


tragickingdom said...

Overhead bridges on the roads leading to the border have explosives permanently rigged to collapse the bridges by remote control.

Hodge Dislodger said...

Don't doubt their effectiveness, but doesn't someone have to deploy them manually (and quickly) in order for them to be effective? And that's a huge weak link in the system. For this reason I don't think the barriers are necessarily better than those in Singapore.

Unknown said...

@Hodge Dislodger,

I guess that's where doctrine, training and personal motivation will play a part.