So after hiking up to the pinnacle of the the Tiger Mountain section of the Great Wall in China just teetering on the edge between China and North Korea I am curious to walk down to the narrow, two step water crossing between the countries. . . I see a pagoda structure up the metal walkway path hugging the lower edge of the mountain we'd just climbed. I want to go there. . . and off I go wanting to take a closer look across the small stream separating the two countries. Off I go, camera in hand and Ben not long behind. Several hundred meters away in the distance is what we've guessed is a N. Korean military guard post and there is someone approaching with what looks like it could be lunch. I walk along the metal catwalk to the pagoda and stand there for some time. One of the military men comes out of the guard post with another close behind. They are heading in our direction. I am taking photos and wondering if the waving is a “stop photographing” message. It definitely seems to be. I continue to photograph as they are quite a ways off. As they near I set my camera on the metal railing and continue to shoot occasionally during the situation which ensues. A conversation. . . they are appealing for money. . . Chinese money. Ben converses with the the guard who requests tobacco, money, Chinese money. . . This is surreal! He is asking us to come around the corner to where we can meet at a fence. Face to face. Small factor being the armed guard on the Chinese side we left behind us near the sign posting “no conversing or exchanging of objects!” We convey to the men as best we can in Korean that we are truly sorry but it is just too dangerous for us to do so and we don't have any tobacco. This situation was so unexpected! We really didn't expect that the N. Korean soldiers would speak with US (had they any clue that we were AMERICANS??? Obviously they really didn't care!). Luckily knowing even rudimentary Korean did make this interaction possible. It was sad to not be able to oblige their requests but really imprisonment or being shot was just not on the list for this trip! As the one soldier walked along the edge of the frozen waterway I felt more concerned for his safety than he seemed to be. So distracted by the opportunity at hand all consciousness of the true possibility of falling into the freezing waters just below and inches away from his feet seemed not to even register in his mind. It only leaves me to wonder more what the true situation for the people in North Korea is. I may never know. Imagine what it would be like to never know freedom of speech, travel, expression or desire! I hope a change is awaiting the people of this highly secretive and unknown land.