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DMZ = wid life sanctuary, hope, and unification - at least that's what I am told

Seoul, South Korea

Tuesday Kris and Ryan left for work early, and I headed on an early morning tour to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which is a 4km area surrounding the border between North and South Korea. I was a bit disappointed because I wanted to get on the Joint Security Area (JSA) tour where you can actually go to the boarder line in the conference room where the two sides meet, but I needed to reserve that tour a few days in Advance because of security concerns. Regardless, the tour I headed on was really very interesting and kind of creepy. We took a bus an hour North of Seoul, and as we got closer to the DMZ, there was very little traffic and a lot of barbed wire alongside the road. Our tour guide was really hard to understand, but very knowledgeable and very eager to explain all about the divide and how one day the two countries will reconcile again. I know this sounds awfully simplistic, but I couldn't help but think how the thought of a line drawn and a DMZ created reminded me of my two brothers sharing a room when they were younger. They would tape a line on the floor and tell each other they couldn't cross it! Anyways, yes that was much less drama I guess than this high tension area of the world.
We first went to this little tourist resort called Imjingak, which was supposed to symbolize unity. Located just South of the DMZ, I thought it was such an odd location to be housing a carnival/amusement park (which was strangely non-operational at the moment I was there, and I wondered if it ever operated). I couldn't imagine a family randomly going to this resort for the carnival located here. I think the pinwheels in this photo are to symbolize happiness, unity and hope.

We then hopped back on our bus and headed to Dorasan Station. This station was build particularly to connect South Korea with Pyeongyang, but only operated once. It is a brand new train station that has been indefinitely closed. Again, hopes are that it will not stay this way. I never thought about it, but my tour guide asserted that South Korea is essentially an island. On a map it is a peninsula, but with the border to North Korea closed, he was correct, South Korea is essentially an island. You cannot reach any other country except by air. I thought this map of the would-be train routes was very interesting. This train station was supposed to connect South Korea with other parts of Asia and Europe.

Without getting into a history lesson, South Korea has discovered a number of tunnels built by North Korea in a probable attempt to attack Seoul from under ground. They believe that there are many more tunnels that have been built or are being built that they do not yet know about. The third tunnel that was discovered was opened for tourism, and part of our tour was this Third Tunnel. There was a very steep incline to get down to the tunnel and we were able to walk a fair way into the tunnel, which was very wet and only about 4 feet high in some places. I don't think I will ever forget the smell in the tunnel. The literature said that 30,000 North Korean troops could have fit through that tunnel in 1 hour. Most of the tour was limited photo-ops due to security concerns, so I don't have any photos.

We then headed to the Unification Observatory where I could actually see into North Korea. This photo here is the North Korean flag at the DMZ, which they built higher than South Korea's flag.

After the tour, I was glad to be back in Seoul. It's crazy to think that all of this is actually going on. But the most interesting part to me was how optimistic all of the South Korans were (at least on the tour) that one day very soon that the two countries would reunite or at least open the border back up. Everything about the DMZ was positive somehow in their eyes. The DMZ is a happy wild life sanctuary, nature preserve and all of the unification activities and tourism surrounding it were all just signs of a happy ending to come soon.

I had met a guy from New York and a girl from France on my DMZ tour, so we decided to grab some late lunch after we got dropped off. It was nice to meet a few new people since Kris had been at work the whole day and wasn't able to come with me. Once Kris got back from work, we headed out to eat at a Bulgarian place in Itaewon.

permalink written by  blondie on June 6, 2012 from Seoul, South Korea
from the travel blog: Asian Persuasion - June 2012
tagged Korea and DMZ

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