The DMZ, or the de-militarized zone, is a buffer area between the 2 Koreas. Surprisingly, tours are available to visit this area. You need to register in advance for this trip and with your passport. They have the right to refuse a visitor, which is often someone from a communist country. Being a friendly Canadian, I had no problem securing a spot on the tour. My seat neighbour was a thrill-seeking, right-wing minister of sorts from the U.S. and I pleaded with him to be good and not make waves. I think that the presence of armed soldiers on the bus helped convince him. Upon arriving at the DMZ area, we changed buses to take one that has full security clearance…aka, has been checked for bombs.
When we arrived at the large zone that is adjacent to the actual demarcation line, the Joint Security Area, we saw a cluster of buildings reserved for military personnel and then there was the tower for us to climb. From atop this small tower,at a short distance from North Korea,we gaped at the North Korean soldiers and took pictures. It was the oddest tourist experience.
After that, we were free to go and visit the building that was especially for us: the gift shop. Yes folks, there is a gift shop! You can buy just about anything with DMZ stamped on it, from t-shirts to playing cards. I bought a plate for my plate collection. Of course, I have to explain the politics of this plate when guests see it on my wall at home. It “ain’t” pretty but it’s a pretty special souvenir of a special place!
Another interesting tourist trip is a visit to the “third infiltration tunnel”, located a short distance from Seoul. This ”third infiltration tunnel”, was secretly dug by North Korea to attack South Korea. It is one of four such tunnels found in 1978, thanks to a tip from a defector. Two metres wide, two metres tall, 1,635 metres long on the South Korean side, and running about 73 metres below ground, the tunnel could accommodate 10,000 soldiers an hour. Just 44 kilometres from Seoul, it is part of the military tourist attractions of South Korea. There is an observation deck with viewers available,
and you can walk around the complex. However, beware of walking on the grass.
No, they are not worried about the grass…it’s the land mines that are the problem!
After the “careful”walk-about, I took the mini monorail which goes down to the tunnel.
The incline is steep, the seats(for two) are narrow and the ceiling is low.
The thrill is worth the bending in half and hugging your seat partner.
When at the bottom, I unfolded my body out of the seat and started the 400 metre walk to the end of the South Korea part of the tunnel. There, I stood facing the rolls of barbed wire and the security camera. I fought the urge to take a picture: we had been warned to take no pictures, and to make no sudden or suspicious movements. I guess my shivering…the tunnel was damp and the feeling was eerie…was considered acceptable because, well, here I am.