Over the holiday weekend we went on a tour of the DMZ (demilitarized zone) which is the border of North Korea and South Korea. The tour starts out driving two hours on a bus watching a documentary to give background of the DMZ and the Korean War. We arrived at what appeared to be a tourist stop with a temple, concession stands to buy food and souvenirs, and what appeared to be carnival rides that weren’t running. We had to catch another bus so we didn’t spend much time at this stop. Here is a picture of the temple.
The next stop was tunnel #3 that was discovered in 1978. No photos were allowed inside the tunnel or inside the building leading to the tunnel. The tunnel in only 27 miles from Seoul, and the incomplete tunnel is 1.0 mile long, 6ft 5in at its maximum height and 6ft 11in wide. It runs through bedrock about 240 ft below ground. It was apparently designed for a surprise attack on Seoul from North Korea, and according to the visitor information could have accommodated 30,000 men per hour along with light weaponry (direct from wikipedia). For the walk down to the tunnel we had to wear hard hats and anyone under 5ft tall had to duck down to avoid hitting their cranium. It was probably my favorite part of the tour and just wild to see in person. Outside of the tunnel there are a few statues and the DMZ sign promoting the peaceful reunification of Korea.
Our next stop on the tour was the Dora Observatory which is atop of Mount Dora. You can see the entire width of the demilitarized zone including the North Korean propaganda village (known as Peace Village in North Korea), and see as far as the city of Kaesong. You can see the North Korean flag flying and statues of Kim Jong Un.After this we went to Dorasan station. Dorasan Station is a railway station on the Gyeongui Line, which used to connect North Korea and South Korea. On December 11, 2007, freight trains began traveling north past Dorasan Station into North Korea taking materials to the Kaesong Industrial Region and returning with finished goods. It was scheduled to make one trip every weekday. On December 1, 2008, however, the North Korean government closed the border crossing after accusing South Korea of a confrontational policy. The station is currently served by four daily trains from Seoul, which are used mostly by tourists.
After the train station and reading up on its history we stopped for lunch at a Korean restaurant along the way. I only liked the “dumplings” which were like veggie egg rolls, but Matt enjoyed most of his food.
Our final stop was the Joint Security Area, which is hands down the best part of the tour and the most surreal part. The JSA has around 100,000 tourists visit each year through several tourism companies (through the various U.S. military commands in Korea). Before being allowed to enter the DMZ, we had to go through a briefing and sign a document which basically states that you’re entering a hostile area and injury or death could occur. It was so eye opening to see and feel the tension while standing looking at North Korea that close. For a few minutes we got to stand inside one of the 3 buildings that are used for diplomatic meetings and are divided evenly across the border. We were able to walk across the border inside the building and officially step into North Korea; as long as the door on the North side remained shut.
We enjoyed the entire tour but it was a very long day. Just for fun we had some snacks to try on the bus ride back… we opened a bag which we thought would be coconut chips, but it turned out to be coconut flavored FISH chips!!!! So gross. Fish chips are huge here (barf).
Until our next adventures…
xO – MJ