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May 19, 1989

Front Line, Sources of Conflict All Too Close for US Military Physicians in Divided Korea

JAMA. 1989;261(19):2797-2798. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03420190067014

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SEATED IN COMFORT in the General's Mess—chatting about sports— these Americans could have been any of the thousands of visitors to the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea, with no more in mind than whether the sunshine would hold for the track events.

However, the Seoul area is home to some 41 000 US military personnel who live as close as anyone in the world to what could be called a "front line." The 38th parallel that marks the border with North Korea is relatively close to Seoul (but a drive of about an hour). Some of the conversational participants are US Army physicians who would be called upon to treat the wounded if that front line became a battle line.

About a quarter of the 70 million South Koreans live in Seoul, an ancient city that was largely destroyed during the Korean conflict. However, about 60% of Seoul's