DMZ and JSA: Stepping into North Korea

In the first couple months of being in Korea, there was a tension on the Korean peninsula and the trip to the DMZ was pushed back. I finally got a chance to go on the DMZ and JSA tour and it was a good experience – I learned more about the history and relations between the two Korea.

The first part of the tour included Dorasan Station, Dora Observatory, and the Third Infiltration Tunnel.

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One day, when the two Korea become unified, Dorasan Station would become an international train station on the Trans Eurasian Railway Network. At the moment, there are no trains running from this station – since it’s not likely to be able to go into North Korea peacefully. But it was interesting to see the billboards promoting unification and gave one hope that one day the peninsula could be one again.

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The Third Infiltration Tunnel has a fascinating history. There have been four tunnels discovered and this is the third (hence the name). The belief (and strong evidence indications) is that North Korean had dug these deep tunnels, in preparation for an invasion into the South. This particular tunnel was discovered after a North Korean defector notified the South and they found this tunnel. It was an interesting tunnel to walk through, although I was a little confused as to what I was looking at when we got to the end of where you could walk through.

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In order to protect the southern territories, you were only allowed to take pictures from behind the photo line. It was sort of funny watching people take photos, cameras raised high in the air, pointing towards North Korea.

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The lunch included on the tour was bulgogi. Yummy.

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Dora Observatory included many monuments and altars for South Koreans who come here on special holidays. Many Koreans have been separated from their family who were in the North when the separation of the peninsula occurred. It’s heartbreaking, thinking about these families separated for the past 50 years.

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The final part of the tour included the JSA – Joint Security Area. This part of the tour was really fascinating and perhaps the closest to North Korea I’m ever going to get in this lifetime.

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Posing with a South Korean soldier  – he’s in a modified Taekwondo position. I’m standing on the North Korean side of this building. I’ve entered a different country’s territory!

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The white building in the back is a North Korean building. And from where we were standing, we could see a North Korean soldier.

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The North Korean soldier took a photo of us – the tourists and South Korean soldiers – so our US soldier told us to return the favour.

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One of the landmarks that was pointed out to us and really stuck with me was the Bridge of No Return. At the end of the Korean war, prisoners were exchanged on this bridge. The prisoners had to decide which Korea to stay in. Once they decided a Korea, there was no return.

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This was quite an experience and I’m glad I got to go during my time in Korea. I learned a little more about this country and I’m more interested in the South and North Korean relations. Definitely worth a trip for those in South Korea.

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