Day trips to the border with North Korea, the so-called „Demilitarized Zone“ are among the most popular things to do when you are in Seoul. There are several tours containing several stops. If you find a very cheap offer, this might mean that Panmunjom/JSA (with the famous blue barracks on the border) is not included. Be also aware that you can visit parts of the area on your own, but some are only accessible through guided tours. A full day tour including the most important spots (Panmunmom/JSA, Camp Bonifas, Dorasan Station, the Third Infiltration Tunnel, Dora Observatory and Imjingak Park) and a lunch costs around 130,000 Won (2016). I went with Panmunjom Tour (note that they are now located in the Koreana Hotel and not in the Lotte Hotel any more!), but there are around a dozen of other companies offering similar tours for similar prices. Panmunjom Tour offered also the chance to speak with a North Korean Defector. For some more information what to expect at which of the spots mentioned above, please see my DMZ travellogue.
Although it is possible to buy tickets for Dora Observatory, Dorasan Station and the Third Infiltration Tunnel on spot at Imjingak, these tours are in Korean only. Book a tour ahead to get one in English, Japanese or Chinese – I am not even sure, if other languages are offered on a regular basis.
Note that you have to book the tour well ahead and send some details (including a passport copy). Citizens of some nationalities must have their background checked and therefore an even earlier booking is recommended for them. South Korean citizens may have to prove that they are residents in other countries to enter Panmunjom/JSA. For Panmunjom/JSA, please also dress conservatively and be aware that young children are not allowed. Read the rules on the site of your tour company carefully in order to avoid dissapointments.
I came here with my friend, it's a hour and half driving far from Seoul. Anyway it's plenty of bus tour leaving from the capital. Ticket price for 3 hours tour is 8700 wong. You are suposed to have your passport with you, bt if you ignored that as I did and you have a Korean friend with you, then he/she can guarantee for you, she will guarantee that you will not escape in north Korea. The tour include a tunnel that north koreans digged. It
is 265 meters long, going down is easy, and you can come up with a train if you book for it, we came up walking and it was hard but not as hard as crawing in the lower part of tunnel. It wasn't done for high people. You are not allowed to bring cameras, nor telephones nor bags inside the tunnel.
There is a sort of no man land betwen the two koreas.It is surrounded on both sides by watchtowers and it exists from 1953, after the end of the war. This strip of land has been depopulated in order to create a buffer zone betwen the two countries.
The human absence has created a heaven for wildlife which includes more than 67 endangered species. when the man moved out, animals and plants moved back in. And this happened even if in thd DMZ there is an estimated number of 1.2 milions of landmines.
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)
ُThe most impressive building on the North Korean side of the Joint Security Area is called Panmungak. This gray, three-story structure was completed in August 1969, and it houses the North Korean JSA guards and it serves as a waiting are of North Koreans participating in talks with the South. This facility is occasionally open to the North Korean people who visit the DMZ.
When people visit the south side of the JSA, northern soldiers stand watch with binoculars. Occasionally you will also see a curtain pulled up in Panmungak so a guard can snap pictures of visitors.
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.
At the center of the Joint Security Area, straddling the Military Demarcation Line, stand a series of silver and baby blue United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission buildings.
All visitors are allowed to enter the center UNCMAC building where peace talks are held. But be wary of the burly South Korean soldiers standing in Tae Kwon Do stances with sunglasses -- they guard the door leading to North Korea. They serve a dual purpose -- to protect visitors from the North Koreans, but also to prevent people from entering the North. While in this building, you may step across the line into the North...but only for a few minutes until your tour continues.
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.
Kijong-dong is the official name of a small village located on the North Korean side of the border int he DMZ. It is one of only two villages in the entire DMZ, along with the South Korean village of Daeseong-dong.
Kijong-dong is known outside of North Korea as "Propaganda Village," mainly because most of the town is fake. The buildings, constructed in the 1950s, appear to be empty concrete shells without rooms or windows, but wired with electricity for the illusion of inhabitants. Also, until 2004, load speakers in the village broadcasted propaganda messages into the south. Finally, Propaganda Village is also home to a 525-foot tall flagpole, but solely to be taller than the 323-foot tall flagpole constructed on the South Korean side of the border.
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.
The Dora Observatory is located on Mount Dora, just across the border between North and South Korea. This tourist destination has an observation room and an outdoor observation deck that offer great views into North Korea. The area is open for tourists and it has a small gift shop, public restrooms, and a small temple.
From here you can look into North Korea over the DMZ to see propaganda village and the world's tallest flagpole, as well as Kaesong.
Dora Observatory is next to Dorasan Station, the last South Korean train station before the border, and very close to the third North Korean invasion tunnel.
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.
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.