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|
|Barbed and electric wire fence on the way to the DMZ|
|Lot of check posts were unmanned. And we are banned from taking pictures of the soldiers.|
|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.
|The railroad running between the Koreas which was blasted during the war.|
|The engine of the train and the Freedom bridge where the POWs were exchanged|
|The pretty little brook close to the Freedom bridge|
|The Freedom Bridge which is the way to cross the Imjin river|
|The bridge over the Imjingak river which runs from the North Korea.|
|This structure houses the Liberty bell which can be rung for the Fallen soldiers for a fee|
|The Liberty bell in South Korea|
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.|
|Notice the villages close to the DMZ! The Red line denotes the Military Delimitation Line (MDL)|
|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|
|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 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)