DMZ - DeMilitarized Zone, Seoul
we went there on an autum sunny day. there was a brand new railroad, still never used. I did not like it, there is nothing to see, there is small hill and also a wall to separate north and south. Is that something nice to see.
There is a bust taking you there. You must show your passport to make sure you are who you are, like you will run to the north...
Almost any major hotel in Seoul offers daily bus tours to Panmunjom. Cost is about $53 and the tour takes about half a day. You take a bus that departs form the american army base's travel agency USO, near samgakji and itaewon, then you meet at 7:30 am to leave to the DMZ. Back to the city by 4 pm more or less. They only travel 3 days a week.
Esta todo muy controlado. Uno tiene que entregar la fotocopia del pasaporte antes de partir. El autobus parte a las 7:30 am desde las oficinas de USO, agencia de viajes de la base estado unidense. El regreso es a las 16:00. En mi opinion no hay mucho que ver: una nuevisima via de tren y despues en el puesto de vigilancia se pueden ver las verjas y montanas.
Everyone should visit the DMZ, who knows how long the last remaining border seperating a country will last. When you visit, and the weather is nice, you can see the North Korean Soldiers on their guard post throw the binoculars. The tunnels aren't anything exciting, except for the fact that you are visit pieces of history. I"m short but if your tall, the tunnels can be pretty difficult. I was with a few people over 6 feet tall and their heads were a little banged up from the ceilings.
We went on a tour curteousy of my husband's company. I won't bother describing the DMZ in detail since so many other people already have but I will say that it was one of the most interesting places I've had the opportunity to visit. Definately worth going.
The USO Panmunjom tour is billed as one of the best ways to understand the nature of the North and South Korea division. So true. Your understanding of the recent history of Korea takes on a new dimension.
The Dress Code for the Panmunjom tour is fairly strict. They let you know that you are being watched and/or possibly video taped from the North side. Obviously, it is in South Korea's and the USA's interest to give as little fodder for propaganda material as possible.
The tour starts at Camp Bonifas, whose motto "In Front of Them All" provides some idea as to its position in relation to the border. We were given a 20 minute slide presentation highlighting the history and present situation at the DMZ.
My group got to go to the MAC (Military Armistice Commission) building. It was interesting to watch the elite South Korean soldiers deploy as we were escorted in two lines to the building. Inside you can actually cross into North Korea as you stand on the other side of the talks table. We also were able to see the Pagoda at Freedom House and Checkpoint 3, which is near the scene of the 1976 Ax Murder Incident. We saw the Bridge of No Return, the only bridge connecting North and South Korea and the site of many prisoner exchanges. We couldn't see the giant flagpole on the North Korean side as it was too damn foggy.
From the camp we moved to the Dora Observation Deck that overlooked the DMZ. We were then whisked away to the Third Infiltration Tunnel. Three tunnels were discovered in the 1970s that could possibly be used for insertion of North Korean troops and/or agents into the South.
The USO tour is probably the best of all the tours that you can take. It is $20 US for military and $40 US for civilians (lunch not included). They tend to run on Tuesdays and Saturdays but check their schedule. Demand is high and you must pre-book
In my opinion, this is a must see for all long term visitors to Korea. For a fairly reasonable price, you can visit the Freedom bridge, the tunnels that North Korea tried to use for invading, and if the weather is good, you'll get a nice view of north Korea itself.
The demilitarized zone is a 2.5 mile wide, 175 mile long strip of land that divides the two Koreas. At the signing of the Armistice in 1953, it was agreed that both sides would pull their troops back 2,000 meters in order to maintain a peaceful border. REMEMBER that there has never been a peace treaty, technically the DMZ is a grim reminder that war and destruction are separated by thin white line in the tiny village of Panmunjeom, only a "cease-fire" agreement is in effect, the longest cease-fire agreement in military history. An interesting side note, Soldier of Fortune Magazine once published a bounty offering $1 million for any person who will steal the flag pictured below (the flag is located on the North Korean side), understand that if you are unsuccessful you will either be shot or placed in a prison cell to live out the remainder of your days (I think I will stick with my lotto tickets)
For those of us living in the Western World, it can be easy (even in this age of 'terrorism') to forget about war and hostility because it rarely knocks on our own door. For me, even living in S.Korea, close to one of the most (the most?) guarded and mined borders in the world, it was easy for me to forget the situation that Koreans live with daily.
The DMZ is a 2 km wide area along the borders of North and South Korea that both countries have agreed to clear of military personnel. The only area where the military is officially allowed to be is in the Joint Security Area, or the JSA, which is a small complex that rests along the Demarcation Line of the borders.
If you take a tour, you will be offered different types. Some, like ours, only take you to the edge of the DMZ, but you'll still get to see some neat stuff. If you go to the JSA, you can go right into the complex and can even cross the border (as per your guide's instructions). This tour is a little more tense, as you have to follow very strict instructions. There's even a dress code.
I think that this tour is something that everyone should go on. It's amazing to see one of the only Cold Wars in existance playing itself out right in front of you.
This is the exact border with North Korea. The military presence in the DMZ zone is everywhere. All firearms are banned in DMZ.
The building behind us is the observation deck, where you can look across to the North Korea side. You can make out the North Korea flag and a few towns on the other side.
There is a neutral zone (no-man's land) governed by United Nations that serves as the border between this 2 countries. This area is 2km in length and stretches across the border of the 2 countries. A few South Korean families chose to live in the neutral zone to be closer to their N.Korean relatives.
This is a monument built as a symbol of hope... for reunification.
On the right of this picture, you can see the beginning of a tunnel. This tunnel was used by the North Korean army to attack South Korean cities in the Korean War.
This picture was also taken near the War Museum that holds exhibition of the Korean War. The short movie is very touching as it tells how families are separated and could never see each other again, due to political differences.
This was a dream to bring North Korea and South Korea closer to reunification. A railway that will connect the capital cities of both countries... starting at Pyongyang, N.Korea and ending in Seoul, S. Korea.
Dorasan station will the first station in the South Korean land. This project is still in progress... awaiting a dream to come true.
The DMZ has to be one of the more interesting tours you can do from Seoul. Most common is the the half day tour (leaving around 7.30am and returning around 3pm), taking in various sites including Panmunjom, the bridge of no return, the 3rd infiltration tunnel and the Dora observatory. I went with the United Services Office for USD 40 and we had English guides throughout the tour. As you would expect, there is a fair amount of propaganda, which is delivered very subtlely, especially from the US army's segment of the guided tour. Cameras are only allowed in certain areas, and surprisingly this includes the highly strung Joint Security Area, but not the tunnel, which seems odd as there are photos of the tunnel on the advertising pamphlets.
A special note - book early - this tour is incredibly popular. Some tours expect you to wear good casuals (no shorts and sandals etc), as photos of scruffy tourists can be used for propaganda by the North Koreans.
While it may be surprising to most, the recent efforts at rapproachment between the North and the South have led to the proliferation of tours to areas near the DMZ. Only 20 miles north of Seoul, this is definitely a must-see excursion. You might even get to tour a tunnel dug by want-to-be North Korean infiltrators, depending on the tour. Interestingly, the tunnel tour is preceded by a multi-media presentation who's unintentionally humorous theme can best be described as this: the DMZ is a beautiful wildlife preserve in which animals live in harmony. Soon it will disappear and the Korean people will live in harmony, too!
Surprisingly, most of the locals have never been to the DMZ. I guess with the constant reminders that war could break out at any second, it probably is not something they like to do with their free time. but for western folk, the world's most heavily guarded border is your playground!
Well, not quite. I have been to both sides of Panmunjom, and never want to go north again. But the South side is actually interesting and worth seeing at least once.
Tours will have to be arranged through an agency, or through a military liason, if you are in the military. There is a dress code and it is strictly adhered to. No jeans, shorts, t-shirts, open toed shoes, dungarees, etc. You will want to wear business casual. If not, they won't let you in.
The tour is actually pretty brief. An hour bus ride from Seoul, 7 minutes in Freedom house, 7 minutes in the MAC room, where you can set foot on North korean soil, 10 minutes at checkpoint 5, a quick bus ride past the axe murder site and the bridge of no return and the hour ride back to seoul. While it seems quick, there is a lot to be learned and a lot to see. And as long as you don't point or make gestures towards the north, you won't get shot or start a war. And that is always a good practice for any tourist.
When visiting Seoul the number one must do activity would have to be the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) Tour(s). There are full day and half day tours. I took the half day tour and this included a number of key important sights concerning the separation of the two Koreas.
The half day tour of the DMZ begins at the so called Bridge to Nowhere and takes one to the Dora Observatory with views into North Korea. Here one sees deep into that country, off limits to many. The world's tallest flag pole has the North Korean flag flying higher than the one built more recently by the capitalist South. This powerful symbol would be most effective to the moral of the northerners. After here the group is taken to another location and a small trains travels deep into the earth to the sight of one of many so called Infiltration Tunnels. They were discovered in the 1970s and were supposed to be possibly used if the North were planning an invasion of the South. When down below one can walk through the narrow passage, complete with hard hat and watch your head, under the no mans land known as the DMZ.
It is hoped that the Dorasan Railway Station at the DMZ boarder will some day, but who knows when, will have a service connecting Seoul with Pyongyang the capital of North Korea. At the moment this station is mainly used by servicemen travelling to and from Seoul. Therefore at the moment it's the last stop, but some time in the future they will have through trains with potential going all the way to London.