May 10, 2019
Today began earlier than most. We had to be up and ready to go before eight o’clock, but no one seemed to mind the rush. Since the itinerary was released, May 10th was on everyone’s radar. Today was the day we got to visit the DMZ or, as our tour guide Rob calls it, “the most dangerous place in the world.”
I wasn’t surprised by the intensity of the check security ran before they let us near the border. Everyone needed a passport, and a pre-made list of those entering was made and reviewed prior to our arrival. Interesting enough, it was mostly American soldiers guarding the gate to the South Korean territory. The warnings signs for mines and heavily armed army men set the tone early on that this was going to be a sobering experience.
Unfortunately, the Joint Security Point, famous for its blue-roofed houses and special border-crossing meeting rooms, was under renovation, so we couldn’t see it up close. I was bummed because I thought it meant we weren’t going to say we crossed into North Korea. That is until we stopped outside an underground tunnel system. As our tour guide explained to us, the North Korean created the tunnels to secretly infiltrate the South throughout the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. By journeying down as far as possible, we entered what was technically North Korea soil. I can check that one off my bucket list!
When that was all said and done, we spent our afternoon back in Seoul on a river cruise down the Han. It was definitely a change of pace. We spent our time feeding anchovies to some seagulls smart enough to follow the boat. Our day ended when Dr. Yun challenged us to make it back to the hotel on our own without the use of our phones. I didn’t think we’d make it, but after hounding a few locals, we got point in the right direction. What a day!