'Peace Museum' and Armistice Talks Hall
These buildings are reached after leaving the Visitors Centre inside the DMZ. They were reputedly erected in 'a couple of days' to accommodate the talks, held on 27 July 1953.
We got a look at the small building where the talks were held (a table, some chairs), before moving to the more interesting 'Peace Museum', a barn-like building with a group of tables on which stood the DPRK and UN flags, each standing sentinel over respective copies of the agreement.
Around the walls are historical photos of talks and negotiations, some disgrams of the war, and not a few pictures of the Great leader, as a younger man. You can also see the weapons purportedly used in the infamous 'Axe Murder Incident' in the Joint Security Area in August 1976.
- Museum Visits
- Historical Travel
Does 'The Concrete Wall' exist?
The DPRK is very keen on on the 'Concrete Wall' story. We were accompanied by the jolliest military man we encountered on this trip. Not a stern faced fellow he.
It is quite a long drive into scrubby hills, with many villages along the way. We weren't supposed to take photos from the bus windows, but of course, that did not stop us.
We proceed up a hill to a small group of buildings. Not far from us is a barbed wire fence, which we are told is the edge of the DMZ. Inside, in best school room manner Mr Jolly Soldier explains how the Americans have built a wall across the 38th parallel, whilst great leader and Dear Leader look on approvingly. Outside there are all manner of high power binoculars, telescopes and other viewing implements, the better for us to view this travesty (keeping the citizens of the ROK from fleeing north??).
Despite the optical assistance, it looks more to me like cleared ground around military posts.
- Road Trip
World's largest flagpole
During the 1980's, the South Korean government built a 98.4 metre (328 ft) tall flagpole in Daeseong-dong, a village built within the DMZ. The North Korean government responded by building a taller one — the tallest in the world at 160 metres (525 ft) in Kijong-dong, the so-called Propaganda village that is said not to have any inhabitants.
North side - Peace Pavilion
A week after visiting the DMZ on the north side, I came back again as part of South Korean tour and these are some views of the North Korean Peace Pavilion. The third photo is of the building from the other side i.e. the side you don't see if looking from South Korea.
South side - Freedom House
This photo was taken from the balcony of the Peace Pavilion which is located on the north side of the Joint Security Area. Before the building was built there was just a simple small Korea pavilion overlooking the area even though the large Peace Pavilion was on the north side.
South Korean border guards
Some photo's of the South Korean guards standing outside the MAC (Military Armistice Commission) building at the JSA (Joint Security Area). They stand in a taekwondo pose so as to be an imposing fret on the North Korea guards, who look like they simply ignore them.
North Korean border guards
Some photo's of the North Korean guards standing outside the MAC (Military Armistice Commission) building at the JSA (Joint Security Area). You will notice a raised piece of concrete next to the guards. It measures 40cm wide and 7cm high and was placed here to show the MDL, (Military Demarcation Line), which separates South and North Korea. It was brought in 1976 following the Axe Murder Incident when the whole of the JSA area was a neutral area, where members of either side had free movement.
UN Conference Row
In the middle of the JSA (Joint Security Area) are five small buildings known as conference row. The central building is known as the MAC (Military Armistice Commission) where talks between North and South Korea take place. The other buildings are for the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission and the United Nations Command. These buildings are set squarely on the MDL, (Military Demarcation Line), which separates South and North Korea, and bisects the centre of a green-felt-covered conference table inside the MAC Conference Room. You'll get the chance to sit at this table whilst visiting it from the northern side which you're not allowed to do on the southern side. You'll also get the chance to walk over the MDL from the north into the south where you'll find two North Korean soldiers guarding the southern door. More North Korea soldiers will stand guard outside whilst you're inside and they may be joined by southern soldiers who only turned up after we exited out of the building because tourists from the south were about to visit after us.
Joint Security Area
After visiting the Armistice Talks Hall & Peace Museum, we got back on the bus and made our way further south towards the JSA (Joint Security Area). Our bus parked behind the North Korean Peace Pavilion that looks over the JSA. We were then lead around to the side of the building were their is a signature plaque with Kim Il Sung's signature on it the day before he died in 1994. Then we were led around to the front of the Peace Pavilion and down some steps and into the central MAC (Military Armistice Commission) building (see next tip).
The Joint Security Area is the location where all negotiations since 1953 have been held, including statements of Korean solidarity, which have generally amounted to little except a slight decline of tensions. The MDL, (Military Demarcation Line), which separates South and North Korea, runs through the conference rooms and down the middle of the conference tables where the North Koreans and the United Nations Command (primarily South Koreans and Americans) meet face to face. The building opposite the Peace Pavilion is the South Korean 'Freedom House'.
Armistice Talks Hall & Peace Museum
After visiting the visitors centre, we got back on our bus along with our lieutenant colonel from the KPA (Korean People's Army) and proceeded out of the compound through a narrow passage which was lined on both sides with anti-tank devices. We then stopped on the way to the DMZ at a small compound with a few buildings known as the Armistice Talks Hall and 'Peace Museum'. There is also a cinema hall. These buildings were built in a matter of a few days so that the armistice talks and agreement could be signed on 27th July 1953. The Armistice Talks Hall just contains are table and 10 chairs which were all used in the talks. The Peace Museum is a larger building with a table on which there are two copies of the Armistice Agreement in glass cases along with UN and North Korean flags.
North Korean version of the Ceasefire
Outside the Peace Museum is this plaque with an inscription of the North Korean version of the ceasefire. It reads:
It was here on July 27, 1953 that the
American imperialists got down on
their knees before the heroic Chosun
people to sign the ceasefire for the war
they had provoked June 25, 1950.
In the compound area where the DMZ visitors centre is located are these two murals. One displays a child from the north and a child from the south with something like Korea united together while the other shows a map of the Korean peninsula with something like "People, this is the way to a reunified homeland!" There is also a sign saying "Seoul 70km".
DMZ Visitors centre
There is a small DMZ visitors centre in the compound where the Reunification Highway ends at and inside one of the buildings is this large scale model which shows the Panmunjom area for both sides of the border. This was where we were introduced to our DMZ guide who was a lieutenant colonel from the KPA (Korean People's Army). He described each area of the model and then pointed to various points on a map on the way overlooking the model and our tour guide translated in English. Next door to the visitors centre is a souvenir shop, snack bar and some seats. In fact the lieutenant colonel was sitting in one of the armchairs having a cigarette as well as having his photo taken with South Korean tourists.
Pillars to block highway
When you go to Panmunjom and the DMZ from Kaesong, you'll use the Reunification Highway again which just fizzles out into a small compound where the road just simply ends. Along the way you'll pass by a series of large concrete pillars which are about 20-30ft high on either side of the road. Each one is believed to contain dynamite at the base which can be detonated if North Korea is ever invaded by the South. When you arrive at the compound, you'll head out via a very narrow passage which contains anti tank devices on both sides.
This is the famous Reunification Highway that you may have seen photo's of on the net. It runs between Pyongyang and Panmunjom/DMZ and is a four lane stretch of road which, in any other country, would be at gridlock but traffic isn't a problem in North Korea. We only saw a few vehicles on it and even they have to have permission to use it first. We left Pyongyang on this road and stopped off at a town called Sariwon on our way to Kaesong. On the way down we had to stop at, I think, four checkpoints. The first couple we stopped at, we only had to stop briefly before the guards waved us through. A guard came on board at a checkout near Kaesong. About halfway between Pyongyang and Kaesong, there is a 'service area' that is bridge over the road but you couldn't buy at fuel here, just souvenirs, sweets and drinks.