Just a kilometre south-west of the Dora Observatory, where the wooded ridge slopes down to the plain, is the new Dorasan Station, the new railway terminus. This is most certainly not intended to be the terminus, and signs in the station show directions for trains to both Seoul and Pyongyang. Trains for the former depart three times every day;...more
Finally, after another twenty minutes crusing the brand new road, Imjin-gak, now called a 'resort' comes into view. It is a stretch of ramshackle museums, souvenir shops and artefacts from the war, cobbled together with a few quiet, solemn memorials and altars. Around the car park is the most unlikely location for a funfair, but here it is: the...more
The range of cultural attractions and interesting sites of the whole area north-west of Seoul have long been overshadowed by the military activities and fortifications in and behind the Demilitarized Zone. Life goes on, but it is under more scrutiny and tension than most citizens would like.As the Hang-gang bends away to the south for a stretch,...more
It is an unhappy ride for many Koreans, along the coastal highway to Imjin'gak on the banks of the Imjin-gang river. Steadily the fortifications increase, and from the outskirts of Seoul, the Hangang river, and then the Imjin-gang river are bordered by high barbed-wire fences and guard-posts every few hundred metres. Beyond, farmers tend to their...more
Unless the P’anmunjom JSA is on your itinerary, the only time you get inside the DMZ is at the Dora Observatory, which sits on top of a wooded ridge overlooking the wide shallow river valley that separates the two Koreas.The huge concrete facility was opend in September 1986, and is extremely close to the Third Infiltration Tunnel, although you...more
The tunnel is about 1.8m in diameter and was constructed by blasting with dynamite.It has been calculated that the tunnel had the capcity to move one artillery division per hour, and that the exit point was intended to be just 44km from Seoul – the closest of the three known tunnels to South Korea’s capital. Walking down the claustrophobic but...more
The North Koreans have persistently constructed tunnels stretching from the North into South Korea, or at least the part of the Demilitarized Zone controlled by the South. Three tunnels have been discovered – or at least their discovery has been announced – and are now open for visitors, and have had museums and visitor centres contructed at their...more
Here at the wistfully named Freedom Bridge, Koreans tread a solemn constant path to tie their wishes, dreams and hopes to the fence. Until several years ago, the rails of the single railway track were totally silent. Then after a North-South summit in 2001, a station was constucted to the north of the bridge, at Dorasan, a symbolic ultra-modern...more
A fading photograph, pinned to the chain-link fence, tells the whole story, identifying the members of a family still divided by the geopolitics of half a century. All the main actors from the military drama of the 1950s are long dead, although many soldiers, civilians and refugees from many countries remember the horrific battles that swept across...more
There is plenty of take-away food here, and you there are benches everywhere. However, we found a wonderful little spot don by the small pool in the angle between the path to the Freedom Bridge and the railway approach. Just take your food down the path – virtually no-one comes down here and you will have the space and time to ponder the bridge and the river.
Until 1976, access was permitted to soldiers of both sides throughout this zone, but after a particularly gruesome event in 1976 in which two American soldiers were hacked to death by North Korean soldiers wielding axes, a Median Demarcation Line was agreed. Now only American and South Korean troops will be found in the southern sector, and only North Korean and Chinese troops in the northern part.
The line across the Freedom Bridge for the 4.1 kilometre journey from Imjingang to Dorasan is not run as a normal railway line, but as a special tourist service.
The three trains run daily at 11.43, 12.43 and 13.43.
The first and last trains are linked to coach tours to the Dora Observatory (Dorasan) and the Third Infiltration Tunnel. The 12.43 has no linking coach tour, so you can only hang around the station apparently. The journey time is 5 minutes.
It takes at least an hour for the melodramatic facilities to be conducted. I say melodramatic because it is all really just for tourist purposes: it is in the interests of the military to make it all seem much more dangerous than it really is. Dorasan station is still a full kilometre from the beginning of the DMZ, so what's all the fuss?
They count passengers on and off at both ends, so play along with the little game and take it all seriously. If more attention was paid to political reconciliation then, of course, all this fun would disappear!
This Google Map shows the Imjingak/Imjingang area in the foreground, with the Dora Observatory on the ridge. The two unnamed red dots at top left are the famous P'anmunjom JSA and the bridge by the old poplar tree - site of the massacre in August 1976.The yellow line is Google's usual inaccurate country border.The map is tilted, but north is still...more
Paju City has a very clever but very stylistic map of the whole DMZ aea around P'anmunjom. While not really detailed enough for walking, it does show all the sites very nicely. Unfortunately it is all in Korean.Go to the Paju website and click on the DMZ map icon on the right. You will need to scroll to the left a lot when the map shows up in a...more