The day has come where we visit the DMZ. I think it was one of the most anticipated visits for all of us since the beginning of the trip, mostly because.. its the DMZ. We left early and it was about an hour and a half drive up north to the DMZ. The DMZ AKA the demilitarized zone is basically the big border that separates North Korea from South Korea. The border itself is 150 miles and is about 4km wide which means 2km north and 2km south of the line. The border is known to be a “no man’s land” because there are unknown land mines in the zone, and barbed wires on both sides. And for this reason, the zone is full of untouched nature and is great for birdwatchers and animals to flourish. The North Korea side however have barren mountains to avoid people from hiding in the trees to escape.
On the drive in, we passed a ton of barbed wire and even a village that’s existed since the beginning of the DMZ. The people in this village don’t have to serve in the military (men have to serve 21 months in the military between ages 18-30) or pay federal income tax. There’s also regulations on residing here; you have to be married into the village and have to live here 200+ days of the year to be called a resident. We visited the Dorasan station, which is a railway that connects up to Pyongyang (the capital of North Korea) all the way to the Trans Siberian Trail and all the way to London. We also went to the Dorasan Observatory where we had a lookout into the city of Kaesong. We also could see Propaganda Village AKA Peace Village in the distance, which is a fake village built by the North Koreans who wanted to display how well and prosperous they have become. But the South Koreans started observing the village from a distance and noticed that the lights turned off and on at the same time each day, and soon realized the village is fake, which meant that the North Koreans were really only putting out more than what was actually occurring.
We also went through a portion of a tunnel near the DMZ that was built by the North Koreans who started to build 4 underground tunnel underneath the DMZ all the way to major areas like Seoul. Their plan was to use these tunnels as a surprise attack but when discovered and questioned about, North Korea denied building the tunnel and declared it was a coal mine. We went into one and it went down 25 stories/350m. We got to the bottom and it kept going horizontally for a little while until we hit the end where we could see the North Korean side of the tunnel. The hike back up was such a workout though.
We got to watch a short video on the history of the DMZ and visit a Imjingak where there’s some cafes, an old train, and even a small amusement park. The tourism here was a little unexpected given all the history that’s occurred in the area. But there was a small area dedicated to the families that were separated during the Korea divide.
After the DMZ, we went on a Han River cruise that was really beautiful, but short. We fed a ton of seagulls haha. And then we were split into our groups and were told to find our ways back to our hotel in Seoul without a gps and using public transportation. The stakes were free Korean bbq! Our group came third, but Dr. Yun took us all out for Korean bbq and it was really good!