Which is the 4km wide section dividing North Korea from South Korea also know as the most militarized demilitarized zone in the world! This is a tour I booked from home and I have been looking forward to it like few other things in a long time.
First stop was to get on an - ehm - heavily decorated bus in the center of Seoul:
And as we got closer to the DMZ the barbed wire by the river seemed to just grow sturdier and sturdier:
First stop before entering the military zone was Pyeong Hwa land - an amusement park! Yes. An amusement park. It had a history though if being a place where South Koreans went to remember their lost family members in North Korea. And as the guide said it “adults like to fight. Children like to play”. But still - this was very far from what I ever imagined:
Then we had a soldier come through the bus and check out passports before we were allowed into the DMZ. I have personally never been at a military check point before, and I don’t think I mind not having had to deal with that ever before.It was strictly forbidden with any sorts of pictures in there, which I think is primarily because the two Koreas are still at war. There is not peace treaty only a fire cease period.
And finally we came to the Dora Observatory where you can see into North Korea. Including a giant statue of Kim Il Seong and one of their propaganda transmission towers. It is hard to see but it is all there:
The city has no one living there even though North Korea has tried to make it look like a pleasant place - apparently to make South Koreans want to flee into wonderful North Korea........ It is quite obvious that this is all still active military:
At the bottom of the hill was one of the war tunnels. So far they have found 4 tunnels but there are probably more. One was revealed by a North Korean defective. Another one was discovered because South Korea put down a whole lot of water filled pipes. And one day as the North Koreans used dynamite to make the tunnel larger one of these pipes exploded, and South Korea started digging! The tunnel is now somewhat open to tourists but (again) it is strictly prohibited to take pictures inside. But here’s the walkway down to the actual tunnel:
Inside the actual tunnel there are large concrete blockades which looks something like this (there is a tunnel look-a-like outside):
It is very tight and you have to walk quite far bent over and wearing a helmet to get to the concrete walls. And the walk back out was definitely a good hike upwards!
Last stop on the trip was the Dorasan station where there are still train tracks going to Pyeongyang (not that they are currently used much...... but still):
Since it is basically a big empty hall it has an exhibition of photos. Many of these are “Mr Moon and fat guy” as quoted by the guide:
Overall this tour has given me a very real feeling of two countries still at war. Yes, those sites inside the DMZ are touristy, but there are also soldiers everywhere. And with South Korea’s current president (mr Moon) being from the Democratic Party he is apparently reaching out to North Korea continuously, but whether there will be peace in the near future is not something I think anybody really realistically hopes for.