Claire Harbage | WYPR

Claire Harbage

Photographer Kari Wehrs was shocked when she found out four years ago that her 61-year-old mother had started carrying a handgun for self-protection.

Her family never had guns when she was growing up in a midsize Minnesota town. Wehrs' mother said no particular incident had sparked her decision.

The quiet of the late-winter morning is interrupted by a staccato of gunshots.

"Military drills," shrugs Kim Seung-ho, 58, the director of the DMZ Ecology Research Institute, a nonprofit organization that does research on the wildlife in the Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, which is the border area between North and South Korea. A thick blanket of fog seeps over the forested hills on this late-winter morning as Kim stands, searching the horizon for birds, on the bank of the Imjin River just north of Paju, South Korea.