Monday, October 16, 2017

DMZ Tour, South Korea

On Thursday we took a guided tour to the DMZ (demilitarised zone).  The DMZ divides the Korean Peninsula almost in half and separates North Korea and South Korea.    The DMZ was established in 1953 by the Armistice Agreement at the end of the Korean War.

The DMZ is 250 km (160 miles) long and 4 km (2,5 miles) wide.  While the zone itself is demilitarised, both sides of the divide are heavily militarised.  It's safe to say that this is the world's most dangerous border.

Our first stop was at Imjingak Park at Paju, about an hour's drive north of Seoul.  Imjimgak is 7 km (4,25 miles) south of the DMZ and this is the closest that a person can get to the DMZ without clearance.

The Bridge of Freedom used to be a railroad bridge across the Imjin river which was used for repatriating POWs and soldiers from North Korea.

The Peace Bell weighs 21 tons.  It was dedicated on 1 January 2000 in hopes of welcoming the 21st century as when reunification will finally take place.

Mangbaeddan was declared a UNESCO Memory of the World in 1983.  Every year, especially on New Year's and Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) people come here to pay respect for family members separated during the Korean War.

Our next stop was to the Dorasan Korail Station that used to connect Seoul and Pyongyang.  It opened in 2002 and is 2 km (1,25 miles) from the border.  The station has been renovated but it is strictly for show as no train as run to North Korea since 2008.

Then it was on to the the Dora Observatory for our glimpse in to North Korea.  Each Korea maintains a peace village on their respective side of the border.  Gaeseong is in South Korea and in the 1980s the government built a 98,4 metre (323 feet) tall flagpole.

The North Koreans responded by putting up a 160 metre (525 feet) tall flagpole, the fourth tallest in the world, in Kijeongdong which is the village just north of the border.

The bright blue buildings in Kijeongdong were built in the 1950s.  It seems that the village is just for propaganda.

Here are some photos of soldiers out on patrol.  

Since 1974 there have been four North Korean infiltration tunnels discovered by South Korea.  The third tunnel was found in 1978 following a statement from a North Korean defector.

The tunnel is about 1600 metres (5,200 feet) long and 73 metres (240 feet) below ground.  The tunnel slopes down and would have allowed up to 30,000 soldiers and light weaponry per hour in the event of a sneak attack on the south.  There's no photography allowed in the tunnel.

After lunch, we headed to the War Memorial of Korea.  It's a museum that used to be the South Korean Infantry Headquarters.  It's rather large with over 10,000 items on display.

There are a number of indoor and outdoor exhibition halls.  Outside are several monuments and military vehicles on display.

The original plan was to visit the Joint Security Area (JSA) at Panmunjom which is controlled by the United Nations.  Due to the recent tensions between North Korea and the USA, there are military drills so all visits were cancelled for the week.  Too bad because that's the visit that I was most excited about.  Oh well, now I have another excuse to come back to South Korea.  Here's a short CNN video I found on YouTube that talks about the JSA.


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