When Is a Border Just a Border? Almost Never

When Is a Border Just a Border? Almost Never

Countries rise and fall over borders — and how they are guarded. Wars are fought, lives upended. Then again, sometimes it’s more a matter of trash not being collected in national parks, and politicians issuing dueling news releases.

The federal government shutdown sparked by President Trump’s demand for funding a wall on the Mexican border is nearing the three-week mark, and offers a reminder that borders are not just lines of demarcation: Often, they are potent symbols of the politics playing out around them.

A look at some of the most-guarded borders in the world, and some that are notably less so.

Many know it simply by its latitude: the 38th Parallel.

The border between North Korea and South Korea has been one of the most contentious in the world for decades.

The Korean War halted in 1953 with an armistice — but a formal peace treaty was never signed. As part of the armistice, the American-led United Nations Command and the Communist generals of North Korea and China agreed to create a two-and-a-half-mile-wide buffer zone that divides the Korean Peninsula to keep the warring armies apart.

Known as the DMZ, the buffer zone was supposed to be “demilitarized,” but soon became a heavily fortified frontier riddled with land mines and surrounded by fences and guard posts.

Then last year, South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, took a symbolic step. Hand in hand, they crossed over the demarcation line, signifying what many hoped was the start of a new era.

The two leaders’ summit meeting itself offered little in the way of a concrete plan for peace, but the theater of the crossing resonated globally. Still, while a formal peace agreement may finally be in sight, the border remains heavily fortified.

Israel’s boundary with the occupied West Bank was once a largely invisible one.

But Israel began building a physical barrier in 2002, at the height of a Palestinian suicide bombing campaign. Mostly departing from the pre-1967 armistice line, the barrier became increasingly political as its architects looped it around settlements and areas that Israel wished to keep under any future peace deal. (Palestinians want the territory, along with Gaza, for a future independent state.)

Many migrants never had any intention of settling in Hungary; it was simply a way station. Their real goal was reaching more prosperous European nations, and so some simply found different routes.

A small stretch of Europe’s southern border actually touches Morocco, making the tiny territory accessible by land rather than by sea. Increasingly, it has become a place where migrants attempt to enter Europe, as other routes have become more perilous.

The Spanish enclave is known as Ceuta, and visitors there can’t fail to note a 20-foot-high barbed wire fence that stretches for four miles. The area is also patrolled by some 1,100 Spanish federal police officers and the Guardia Civil, a paramilitary police force.

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