The cease-fire agreement between North and South Korea is still in effect. This essentially means that the North Koreans and the South Koreans are still at war with one another. Right in the middle of this war lies the DMZ or the Demilitarized Zone. The DMZ acts as a border between the two separate countries and is loaded with forces from both sides.
Today, May 10th, was the day that we had the chance to visit the DMZ. We did not have to meet in the lobby until nine o’clock in the morning which allowed for ample time to sleep and get ready for the big day. The bus ride took around one hour, and we arrived at the first of many security checkpoints. The South Korean guard entered our bus and verified our passports and double-checked other security information before letting us pass. Once everything was checked and verified, we were allowed to cross into the DMZ.
The next stop was ironically enough, a rest area with a theme park for visitors. We all decided to eat here and try some traditional Korean food. I decided to eat a beef stew with noodles. After we ate, we got back on the bus and traveled to the third tunnel. The third tunnel is one of four underground tunnels that was dug by the North Korean people to invade South Korea and take control of Seoul. Luckily, these tunnels were discovered, and the North Korean people were confronted with the findings. However, the North Koreans denied these charges and claimed that they were “digging for coal.”
Having found a parking spot next to the building housing the third tunnel, we decided to see the tunnel for ourselves. Being that the tunnel was very low, we all had to wear protective helmets. The walk down to the tunnel was very steep, and the temperature turned cool very quickly. For a moment I thought we were back in Pittsburgh. Soon we reached the tunnel and had the chance to go to the very end of the South Korean side and on to the North Korean side. The tunnel was very cold and wet from water continually dripping down from the top rocks.
Having seen the tunnel, we decided to leave. The walk back up to the top of the building was brutal and very steep, but we completed it in no time. After the walk down to the tunnel, we were allowed to walk around a museum area and read about the history of the DMZ and the relations between North and South Korea. Finally, we visited the observatory and got the chance to look at North Korea and the small town on the edge of its border. The city we saw was very bare and small compared to the South Korean side of the DMZ.
While in the museum located near the DMZ, we were all able to experience the long-standing divide between North and South Korea as well as the events that lead up to today. Through the discussion with several locals, I found that some support the idea of unification and others despise the idea altogether. Those who support it want a unified Korea while those who disliked it cited the North Korean violence and economic troubles.
Later, we took the bus to the Han River and sailed down the river. This gave us a beautiful view of the city skyline for pictures and for feeding some of the seagulls. The seagulls would catch small fish that we would throw from the boat similar to a circus act.
To end the night, everyone in the group got to go to a local Korean BBQ Restaurant. The food served was eaten similar to a taco with a lettuce wrap and some salt, pepper, and local red sauce. Following the dinner, we all went back to the hotel and slept for a while. To conclude our day, we decided to go sightseeing for our last night in Seoul.