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A visit to Korean History in Progress
The Panmunjon tour to the 38th parallel, the cease-fire border between North and South Korea.
The tour is by bus, is offered in several languages. Once arriving, there is a mandatory lecture of history by miltary personnel. There is a dress code, smart casual, and nothing too slovenly or revealing.
Though there were some elements of tourist trappism, such a little heavy on the political rhetoric of the evils of the enemy, etc. (Visitors who interested enough to show up are likely to already have a quiet appreciation of the problems..), it does give a first hand view of historical events in progress.
- Historical Travel
As we were in Seoul, we also decided to go to the DMZ - demilitarized zone.
We booked a tour to the border, for more information you can write me a message. Mostly tour includes: Camp Bonifas, JSA (Joint Security Area), conference room, freedom house adn bridge of no return.
We visited all of those places and I can honestly say that it was a great experience. Atmospehre was a little bit electirc because there were soldiers around and it was a border (North Korea and South Korea are still technically at war). But we had a Korean guide, she always told us what to do, when to take pictures.... ''No pictures, no pictures! Oh, why you don't listen to me?'' (c) Haha, she always told this to Japanese tourists.
When we arrived to JSA, Joint Security Area, we saw many tourists BUT on North Korean side! Oh, it was a great feeling... You can see it on one of my photos.
Overall experience is amazing! 100% you should go and visit DMZ!
Before going to the JSA, we signed a visitors declaration, where was written: ''The visit to the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom will entail the entrance into a hostile area and the possibility of injury or death as a direct result of enemy action'' (c)
DMZ - Bridge of No Return
The Bridge of No Return was for many years the only bridge connecting the Joint Security Area at the DMZ with North Korea. The bridge itself straddles the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) which is the actual border between North and South. After the Korean War ended, the bridge was used for prisoner exchanges where the prisoners were free to choose to stay in the north or south, but once the decision was made, it was final. The prisoners could never return to the other side, hence the name of the bridge.
Until the axe murder incident of 1976, the North Korean soldiers used this bridge to man their posts within the JSA, but after the incident the forces in the JSA were ordered to stay on their own side of the border, and North Korea constructed a new bridge to the north.
DMZ - Camp Bonifas
Camp Bonifas is located just 3 kilometers southeast of the Joint Security Area near the DMZ. This is the home of the United Nations Command Security Battalion—Joint Security Area, which is responsible for patrolling the JSA and protecting visitors to the area.
The UNC Security Battalion also provides tours of the JSA. The tours begin with a visit to the new visitors center, where guests must sign a form labelled UNC Reg 551-1, which warns prisoners of the dangers of the DMZ. This form reads in part: "The visit to the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom will entail entry into a hostile area and possibility of injury or death as a direct result of enemy action." After signing the form, the military personnel at the JSA give a very good and informative briefing about the Korean War, the DMZ, and the JSA. Next guests enter UNC buses for the ride to the JSA.
The visitors center at Camp Bonifas has a large gift shop, selling items to include North Korean goods, and it has a small museum.
DMZ - Dorasan Station
Dorasan Station, on the on the Gyeongui Line, is the last train station before the North Korean border. For about a year trains were allowed to pass through this station and across the border to Kaesong's industrial city, but these only ran from 2007-2008.
The station may no longer be an active gateway to the north, but it is the terminus for four trains per day from Seoul. From here, visitors are very close to Dora Observatory and the third North Korean invasion tunnel. You can also buy a souvenir ticket to Pyeongyang, 205 kilometers to the north, for just 500 Won (USD 0.50). The station lies 56 kilometers from Seoul.
DMZ - Third Tunnel of Agrression
The Third Tunnel of Northern Aggression is located near Panmunjom at the DMZ. It was the third of four confirmed tunnels dug by North Korea to establish invasion routes into the South. There are believed to be at least 20 tunnels from the north to the south in total, and it is estimated that the tunnels would allow 30,000 soldiers an hour, armed with light weapons, into South Korea. The tunnel was discovered in 1978, when its location was revealed by a North Korean defector.
Today the third tunnel is a popular tourist stop when visiting the DMZ from Seoul. There are two entrances to the Southern side of the tunnel, one via tram and one that must be descended and ascended on foot. The tram is much easier, but not always available. The walk takes 5-10 minutes each way, and does get a bit claustrophobic once you enter the small, wet, dark portion of the caves made by North Korea. Directly under the DMZ, the south built three walls, 2 of which can be viewed by tour groups. Unfortunately photos are not allowed at the walls under the DMZ, and most tour guides tell visitors not to take photos anywhere in the tunnels.
DMZ - USO Tours
The United Services Organization, in conjunction with Koridoor Tours, offers numerous DMZ tours each week. For 96,000 Won per person (in 2013), you will take a bus from downtown Seoul to the DMZ. Stops include the Third Tunnel of Aggression, the Dora Observatory, Dorasan Station, Camp Bonifas, and the Joint Security Area. Some tours also have a stop for dinner at a cafeteria at the Inter-Korean Transit Office next to Dorasan Station.
The highlight of the tours is the visit to the Joint Security Area. The other stops tend to be a bit boring and time consuming, and they may feel like a waste of time if your visit in Korea is short.
The USO is located in Yongsan-gu near the National War Memorial. Located about 5 minutes north of Samgakji Station.
Where peace meets war.
The DMZ. Since the fall of the Berlin wall, everyone should visit the DMZ, which is notoriously the last remaining border separating two countries, guessing how long it will last. During your visit, with good weather, you can see the North Korean Soldiers performing duties on their guard-post throw binoculars. The tunnels aren't anything exciting, except for the fact that you are visiting pieces of history. The narrow and short infiltration tunnel can be pretty difficult to walk-by, so mind your heads. On websites you can book your visit through many operators as Kaesong Tours or USO which would cost you a 240.000 won fee (as minimum) including a visit to infiltration tunnel and more on option. Of course you can get up there by local train but you can only visit the South Korea border where an open-air military weaponry are also on display. It is only about 40 km distance from Seoul.
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The DMZ is the demilitarized zone between North and South Koreas. You can visit it ONLY by taking a tour. The cost is approximately 42,000 won (around 35 USD) for a half day tour. There is no difference between the half day tour and full day tour in what you see...you just get lunch included in full day tour, but you may as well get your own...it'll be cheaper and tastier.
Make sure you take a tour where you get to see one of the tunnels dug by the North Koreans in an attempt to infiltrate South Korea.
Kim Dae-jung convention center in Gwangju
Do you who won the Novel Peace Prize in 2000?
When South Korean President Kim Dae-jung was presented with the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, in December 2000, he pledged to dedicate the rest of his life to the reconciliation and cooperation of Korean people.
Kim Dae-jung convention center is located in Gwangju at the southern area in South Korea.
It takes only two and half hours from Seoul to Gwangju by KTX, korea Train Express.
I'm planning of visiting countries that are related with Nobel Peace Prize as my own trip.
Hope you are having a good trip in Korea.
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A foot in two countries.
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.
- Budget Travel
Visit the Demilitarized Zone
The world's most heavily fortified border, the -151-mile long, 2.5 mile wide, Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, spans the border between North and South Korea and is surrounded by landmines and bunkers and crisscrossed by barbed wire.
One of the most noted potential military flashpoints on the globe, a visit to the DMZ makes the situtation on the Korean peninsula very real and highlights the continual tension between the Koreas (who are technically still at war, since the signing of the Armistice in 1953).
I will upload pictures later from my visit in 1999 to the DMZ, however for now, I will borrow a few that I found on the web!
PJM is better than DMZ
If you are confused over the differences between the different DMZ tours. I suggest you choose one which includes Panjeomun as part of the itinerary. If you take the half day DMZ tour, you will not see very much. Everything abt North Korea is a tiny speck. On a hazy day, you see nothing! The flag, the village, the bridge etc. Nothing! The only real thing is the infiltration tunnel. Its better to pay a bit more, spend a bit more time and be really near the line at PJM!
DMZ: Dorasan station
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 last station before the North
There is a train station at Dorsan called "the last stop on the way to North Korea". From what I've seen 90% of the tours to the DMZ stop off there (mine did too). There you can get your passport stamped with a commeration of the visit (as you can when you cross the artic cirle etc etc) but you don't get a North Korean stamp. It is all a bit of hype really, but I can say that I've been there... (but don't have the stamp to prove it, although I did buy a key ring).
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