How does the DMZ, aka the active conflict region between South and North Korea, look these days? I was last here on the North Korean side of the demilitarized zone 11 years ago and I have to admit, it’s a little bittersweet to feel a bit of homecoming.

We were first picked up at our meeting spot at a ghastly 5:50am; the DMZ tour company VIP travel had informed us the night before that the South Korean military wanted to limit the number of visitors that day so we had to leave early to get tickets in time. Luckily we were told to be picked up close by our accommodations outside of Exit 3 at Hongik University Subway Station. Although Paulette and Cindy were still 5 minutes late in making the bus, they were luckily driven over separately in a tardy-person van our tour company had provided for them.

While getting a wonderful and entertaining version of Korean history from our guide Sunny, our convoy drove us an hour north to Imjingak Park, which compared to the warlike atmosphere on the North Korean side makes me feel we arrived at DiMZey-World



This visitor center where you first get tickets for the South Korean side of the DMZ is also an entire food court on both floors.



Right outside on the second floor of the building, there are plentiful of statues and monuments about the Korean War.



Most notably is the shot up steam locomotive that was found rusting and broken down at the DMZ at Jangdan station before it was turned into a symbolic tourist structure at the park and placed along the tracks of the former Gyeongui Train Line.



The Bridge of Freedom, which is now more of a memorial than an actual bridge, marks the end of the visitors’ portion of the park. Considered now as a symbol to acknowledge and console all the Koreans who had been displaced and died yearning for their former lives in North Korea, it was originally rebuilt for exchanging prisoners of war.



Heading back down to ground level and adjacnet to the visitor center in the park, you can ride their new gondola that opened up 3 years ago.



The 5 minute ride takes you over the mined Imjin river to the northern bank and was provided complimentary by our tour group in exchange for forcing us to get here so early.



You can get a great view of the Reunification Bridge from the hillside on the northern side:



Camp Greaves, a former military base turned art zone and museum, lies at the highest point of where a visitor can climb.



More structures and views on the other part of the northern bank and hillside:



We then returned back to the southern bank on the gondola and after a tour of the structures on the 2nd floor of the visitors center, we drove back across to the northern side . . .



. . . and explored the Third Infiltration Tunnel/Tunnel of Aggression, one of the 4 known war tunnels in the DMZ between North Korea and South Korea.



After an underground explosion was detected in June 1978, it took 4 months for the South Koreans to construct an tunnel to intercept and discover the incomplete North Korean tunnel. It’s now a tourist site for the South Korean side and you can either walk down or take the monorail.

Not recommended for claustrophobic types as the tunnels themselves are pretty low and long; once you’re at the main infiltration tunnel, walking the 300m to the end takes you to where the North Koreans began their digging.



If you’re still unfamiliar with the history here, there are introductory primer films and dioramas of the DMZ at the DMZ Theater & Exhibition Hall:



Finally the big highlight would be the Dora Observatory located on Mount Dora/Dorasan with their now free-for-all binoculars on the 3rd floor.



Here you can use these binoculars for scenic panoramic views across the DMZ, seeing as far as the North Korean propaganda village and city of Kaesong.



If you look in the right direction on a clear enough day you can peek the North Korean flag tower.



Finally we finished our DMZ tour passing by the Unification Pavilion/Village, the official venue where peace talks between North and South Korea would take place, if ever. And although from the South Korean side you can only point out the building from afar, you can actually stand inside it if visiting from the North Korea side.


Where the armistice of the Korean War was signed.


We then returned on our hour’s drive back to be dropped off back in the Hongdae area of Seoul at 4:00pm.




- At time of posting in The DMZ, it was 6 °C - Humidity: 70% | Wind Speed: 3km/hr | Cloud Cover: hazy


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