Korean Peoples Peace Museum - North Korean Side
This oddly named building is only a museum to peace because the Armistace was signed in it. Otherwise it is a propoganda exhibit extolling the virtues of Juche Ideology, the ruling Kim family, and the glory of protecting a tree Kim il Sung planted (even though it was older than him) by axe murdering 2 US Army soldiers who were cutting it down. It is a sickening place, where little emphasis is placed on peace.
A female tour guide (there are no male ones) will lead you around and extoll the virtues of Dear Leader and Beloved Leader while explaining how the North is just a pawn of the UN to deprive the Korean people of their identity and culture. It has all the tact and honesty of a Nazi leaflet.
Special attention should be paid though, they take their adoration of their leader very seriously. And there is always going to be an escort with you, even when you have the tour guide. Don't make fun of the leaders, don't rag on the Juche ideology. It will not be good for you to do so, if you know what I mean.
Tongak-Gil - North Korean Side
Tongak-Gil is the North's Unification Pavilion. Twice a day calls are placed between this building and Peace House, its counterpart on the South side. It plays hosts to meetings to discuss things such as the recent railway link between the North and South. Not really much to see here, just more rooms. Of course, it wasn't really built with tourists in mind. And in my case, many rooms were closed to me, and there were no papers of any kind to be seen.
Korean Peoples Peace Museum
The "Peace Museum" is set back a little over 1km to the north of the JSA (Joint Security Area). This is the location that the Armistice was signed.
The North Koreans will no doubt like to point out some of the one-sided facts from their propaganda pages.
One such thing is that after the Americans had signed the treaty, they were in such a rush that they did not remember to pick up belongings and had to be reminded to do so.
Another thing the North Koreans may like to point out is that while it was the Americans signing the Armistice, they were too ashamed to bring their own flag, so instead presented the proceedings with the UN flag... after all, as all people know, it was an American led invasion, not a UN sanctioned police action...
- Historical Travel
Joint Security Area - South Korea.
The tour you will most likely get is conducted by the UN Forces Korea. A truely brave group of guys. You will be brought in by bus and disembark at the back of Freedom House, the rather large building built to house family reunions for N and S Korean families. It has never been used for this purpose though, as the north will not allow its citizens to cross over. After forming two lines, you will go up a flight of stairs which takes you to ground level. Then onto the MAC room. The acronym stands for Military Armistace Council, and meetings are held in the room. The North Koreans have microphones turned on at all times, so be careful what you say. And don't touch the guards. This will last about 7 minutes. You can take photos in the room. Then it is out, and back to the front of Freedom house. You can take photos for another 7 minutes while not doing anything to stir up controversy. Then it is back into the bus, and off to checkpoint 5 for 10 minutes of photographs, and a quick bus ride past checkpoint 3, the axe murder site and the bridge of no return.
- Study Abroad
- Historical Travel
Panmun-Gak - North Korean Side
This building serves as mostly offices and a guard post for the North Korean guards along the MDL. It is also a staging area for MAC conference attendees, and a home for northern propoganda. I only got to see the entry hall in the back, and not much else. I believe people from authorized countries get a better look at the building. And what it houses.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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'.
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.
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.