There is only one South Korea. There is only one Seoul. But of all the different places we have seen on this trip by far the most unique is the Demilitarized Zone – 247 kilometers of “No Man’s Land.”
So many things about the DMZ surprised me. I think I went in expecting barbed wire and barren land. The barbed wire was true, but the barren was not. Instead it was filled with life, that life just wasn’t people. It was fascinating to learn that in this space that humans have set with explosives, filled with barbed wire and then vacated, nature has moved in and thrived.
I was also shocked to learn that, because of its placement, there is a village inside the DMZ. There are about 305 people living there who do not have to pay federal income tax, and to whom South Korea’s compulsory military service does not apply. One cannot simply move into this village, however, the only way to live there is to be born there or for women to marry into the community.
Within the DMZ, one of our stops was Dorasan Station, a privately funded train station that, if open, would connect from South Korea to London through North Korea and the trans-Siberian line. The names of the 13,000 people who donated to build the station are listed on a plaque outside.
We also went to an observatory as well as to the third infiltration tunnel. From the observatory we could actually see North Korea, and the North Korean flag waving across from the South Korean one. The third infiltration tunnel was one of four built by the North Koreans in an attempt to gain access to Seoul by going under the DMZ in the event that they ever wanted to attack.
The second part of the day was spent on the beautiful Han River, which yet again reinforced just how beautiful Seoul and South Korea are.