The 38th Parallel- DMZ

One major attraction around Seoul is the trip to the DMZ - the De Militarized Zone, which is one of a kind in the world! The DMZ separates the North and South Korea and it runs 250kms long ending in the Yellow sea on the West to the Sea of Japan on the East. And is considered the most fortified and heavily guarded border in the world. The 4km wide buffer zone between the Koreas is populated with more than a million land mines. The DMZ trip that we took, does not actually take one into the DMZ. It merely takes us to the tip of the DMZ, lets one have a peek from the Dora Tower Observatory in the South at the North Korea, walk into one of the infiltration tunnels and visit the Dorasan Train station.

North and South Korea have not yet signed a peace treaty since the war in 1950 when the North Koreans attacked Soul on a Sunday. They have signed an armistice agreement, which means that both the sides have decided to stop fighting and they have agreed to have their forces moved 2kms on either sides from the Military Demarcation Line. The Joint Security Area is an area in the DMZ where tourists are allowed in but after extensive checks and reservation. But the JSA primarily still remains a place where the talks between the Koreas take place.

Seoul is just around 50kms away from the DMZ. It seems that the South Korean Government had given it a serious thought and even tried to move the capital further down South because of the constant threats from the North Koreans. But now, the South Koreans are so used to the North Korean threats that it doesn't even pop up in their Sunday morning chit chats.

Check posts on the way to the DMZ
Check posts on the way to the DMZ

Barbed and electric wire fence
Barbed and electric wire fence on the way to the DMZ

Check posts with barbed wire fence
Lot of check posts were unmanned. And we are banned from taking pictures of the soldiers. 

Electric wire fence
There is a village very close to the DMZ (see the pic below for the exact location of the village)

Our first stop was the Imjingak. It is a park which is close to the DMZ with complete with an Amusement park, restaurants, souvenir shops and what not! It is also home to the Freedom Bridge and the Liberty Bell. Good place to buy the souvenirs of soybean chocolates and the only place to buy the North Korean liquor.


The Liberty Bell, the Freedom Bridge is housed inside a park called the Imjingak.
Train tracks and the train that was blasted
The railroad running between the Koreas which was blasted during the war.
The train that was blasted
The engine of the train and the Freedom bridge where the POWs were exchanged

The pretty little brook near the Freedom Bridge
The pretty little brook close to the Freedom bridge
The Freedom bridge between the Koreas
The Freedom Bridge which is the way to cross the Imjin river

The railroad bridge with crosses the Imjin river
The bridge over the Imjingak river which runs from the North Korea.
The Liberty bell
This structure houses the Liberty bell which can be rung for the Fallen soldiers for a fee
The Liberty Bell in Imgikgak in South Korea
The Liberty bell in South Korea

DMZ :)

This place houses a museum about, well, the DMZ and the 3rd infiltration tunnel dug by the North Koreans to the South.

Koreas are divided on the 38th Parallel and the 2kms on both the sides forms the DMZ. The DMZ tour doesnot take us into the actual DMZ but very close to it.

The DMZ upclose
Notice the villages close to the DMZ! The Red line denotes the Military Delimitation Line (MDL)
Place to view North Korea
Binoculars to view in North Korea from the South.  We were able to see the North Korean Flag pole (which is the tallest flag tower in the world), the Gaseong Industrial complex buildings. Taking pictures is strictly forbidden except from this place 
The DMZ until the glass
Yay! I was there at the DMZ :)

The Dorasan Train station was once opened as a symbol of peace between the Koreas and to transport people to the Gaseong Industrial complex in the North. But this station has been closed now.

The Dorasan railway station
The station at Dorasan is just a tourist place now!

The tracks are ready, the station really cool. But it remains a tourist attraction until the Koreas are unified

The trip down the 3rd Infiltration tunnel was the highlight of the trip for me. To actually walk through a tunnel which is big enough to transport 30,000 North Korean soldiers to the South in just an hour!


The DMZ tour costs around 60,000 won (~ $60) per person and it took around 5 hours to go and come back to Itaewon on a weekday. It also included a trip into the Amethyst factory which offers 50% discount on the National gem of Korea (Amethyst- a violet color stone)




Skywatch Friday






Re: The 38th Parallel- DMZ

I have done Freedom bridge, 3rd tunnel, Dorasan station and Dora Tower observatory trip 3 times...unfortunately.

The first time was in 2008 when I had my first ever trip to Korea. I couldn't make it to Panmunjom as I only had time in the weekend and they were closed on Sat and Sun (something they have changed).

The other 2 times I went as part of my Panmunjom trip with friends and family.

I am less impressed to be honest and feel it is mainly propaganda BS (without underestimating the situation with the North).


The 3rd tunnel evidence that it was build by the North:

1) because the North claimed it must have been an old coal mine, but there is no coal to be found in this area ;

2) The tunnel tilts slightly upwards to the south, thus water can drain to the north.

3) The holes in the wall where they stuck TNT point to the North, indicating that it must have been build from the north. 

Now, I cannot check on either one of these three. But, since there is a wall build in the tunnel, around where the DMZ should start (i.e. 2 miles away from the north) how do I kno if this tunnel truly stretches all the way to the north? All I know is there is a part of a tunnel that I can see on South Korean soil. There is no footage of the further part of the tunnel. 

Then the dynamite holes. How come that the dynamite blows up half of the hole, leaving the other half in tact? Again, I am not an expert, but I do questions such things. 

The draining story? I simply don't know.


Then Dorasan station, an expensive way of saying "we wish there was a connection to Pyong Yang". Nothing more to see there. It is as interesting as the architecture of Incheon airport as it was build by the same guy (likely with the leftover materials). 


Dora lookout observatory is interesting, if the sky is clear. Otherwise you cannot see North Korea. And the freedom bridge...ah well, guess there is some history. 


What is defenitely worth it is going to Panmunjom, if not only for the history of the place. You will see more of the defense by South Korea than anywhere else and you get to go into the UN buildings, crossing the border of the North. With a bit of luck you will see some soldiers on the other side. But don't be fooled, they do the same trip to Panmunjom from North Korea and you get to go into the same building.