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Friday, 19 July 2013

Golf and Landmines: Camp Bonifas Golf Course, Paju


Camp Bonifas was a United Nations Command military post located 400 meters south of the southern boundary of the Korean Demilitarized Zone, located at Paju City, Gyeonggi Province. It was 2,400 meters south of the military demarcation line and lies within the Joint Security Area (JSA), also known as Panmunjom. The Military Demarcation Line (or 38th Parallel) forms the border between South Korea (the Republic of Korea) and North Korea (the Democratic People's Republic of Korea). It was returned to the Republic of Korea in 2006.

Camp Bonifas was home to the United Nations Command Security Battalion - Joint Security Area, whose primary mission was to monitor and enforce the Armistice Agreement of 1953 between North and South Korea. Republic of Korea and United States Forces Korea soldiers (known as "security escorts") conduct the United Nations Command DMZ Orientation Program tours of the JSA and surrounding areas. The camp has a gift shop which sells DMZ- and JSA-related souvenirs.

The camp, formerly known as Camp Kitty Hawk, was renamed on August 18, 1986, in honor of U.S. Army Captain Arthur G. Bonifas (posthumously promoted to major), who along with 1LT Mark T. Barrett, were killed by North Korean soldiers in the "Axe Murder Incident".

There is a par 3 one-hole "golf course" at the camp which includes an Astroturf green and is surrounded on three sides by minefields. Sports Illustrated called it "the most dangerous hole in golf" and there are reports that at least one shot exploded a land mine.

Kevin Sullivan of The Washington Post reported in 1998 that Camp Bonifas was a "small collection of buildings surrounded by triple coils of razor wire just 440 yards south of the DMZ" that, were it not for the minefields and soldiers, would "look like a big Boy Scout camp.


Extract from Cracked.com
Sports Illustrated called the Camp Bonifas golf course the world's most dangerous "golf course," and as a site that specializes in making lists and dick jokes, we're comfortable deferring to SI on anything vaguely sports-related. What makes this golf course so dangerous? For one thing, it's straddled right between a U.S./South Korea Army base and the Korean Demilitarized Zone. It resides in a small village that is directly in between the North and South Koreans who, it should be remembered, are not fond of each other. Though their war is over, the Washington Post reports that South Koreans have been "living with the very real danger of another North Korean invasion for a generation," so the atmosphere of Bonifas, an area surrounded by ready-and-willing soldiers, is understandably tense.

But that's not even the most dangerous aspect of the course, and neither are the machine gun nests or razor wires that surround it. It's because, the one-hole course is square in the middle of an active minefield.

Why build a course here, let alone play on it? Why, to piss off the North Koreans (a traditionally reserved and mild-tempered bunch), of course. The camp was the home of several skirmishes since the 1950s and once it became demilitarized, the course was built in 1972 and named after a U.S. soldier killed in the line of duty near the course. Since then, American and South Korean soldiers, and civilian tourists, have played the course to combat the taunts of North Korean soldiers that are within earshot.

You can't even get to the course without passing through an area surrounded by North Korean soldiers, armed and watching your every move. Visitors are encouraged to not make eye contact with the soldiers and everyone who wants to vacation at this hip golf murder resort is required to sign a waiver, which acknowledges "serious injury or death" as distinct possibilities on your trip. In case, you're still on the fence about where you should vacation this year, death-by-landmine, we should point out, almost never happens in Disneyland.

While risking your life to observe your awesome, awesome freedom in front of furious North Korean soldiers is fun and all, there is very real danger on the course. Clubs, balls, hats and other personal objects are routinely misplaced on the mine riddled fairway, and cannot be taken back without the possibility of an explosion. And, at least once, a ball was teed off and actually detonated a mine.