There are a lot of reasons why the world’s most fortified border is scary, but what has really rattled North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are 11 loudspeaker installations hidden among the trees just south of the boundary.
It was this that triggered Thursday’s exchange of fire across the demilitarized zone, or DMZ, and Kim’s latest ultimatum — stop the broadcasts by 5 p.m. Saturday (4:30 a.m. ET) or face military action.
He has placed his army on what the North calls a “quasi state of war.”
What makes this incident more worrying is that this time the North followed through with a threat, which usually doesn’t happen. And the South hit back robustly, something that is also rare.
There don’t seem to have been any casualties or damage on either side, suggesting that for all the sound and fury the targets were most likely rocks or hills designed to cause the least amount damage.
Still, South Korean authorities have evacuated several villages close to where the shelling happened in Yeoncheon District.
Near one shelter visited by NBC News, Korean Red Cross workers prepared food while around 20 villagers — mostly elderly women and children — were in a concrete bunker reached by steep stairs and a heavy blast-proof door.
“I thought at first it was thunder,” 10-year-old Yoo Jin said referring to Thursday’s artillery exchange. “But then it went on and on, and I knew that wasn’t thunder.”
Read more: NBC News