Travel Journal

The DMZ revisited (South Korea)

(Friday 19 October 2007) by Lynda
After a week of waiting I finally got on a tour to Panmunjom to see the DMZ from the southern side. The DMZ is only 55 km north of Seoul and the village of Panmunjom is established on the ceasefire line at the end of the Korean War in 1953.

The DMZ is a strip of 4 km wide (2km wide on both sides of the demarcation line)
The taekwondo stance
The taekwondo stance
and 248 km long and is one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world. In the DMZ are two villages located, Gijeong on the north side which is a ghost town whose only function is to broadcast propaganda to anyone around. The village has a 160m high structure with a flag that weights nearly 300 kg, most days you can't see the flag because it takes more than a breeze to get the flag out. Daeseong on the south side is a subsidized village with high tax-fee incomes where all residents must be at home by the 11pm curfew and soldiers stand guard while the villagers work in the rice fields. A nice detail is that everything on the north side is bigger or higher: the building, the flag pole and the flag itself.....

The demarcation line itself is a strange place where soldiers from the north and south stand only centimeters apart, separated by a concrete threshold. We entered the blue wooden UN building on the demarcation line to have a look in the room where peace discussions still take place. I've been in the same building 3 weeks ago but entered from the other door. Very strange situation because the quickest way would have been to enter from one door en exit through the other door, but this border is still closed and probably will be for a couple of years. I had to make a complete round trip through China to get to South Korea and visit this place again.
The DMZ at Panmunjon (seen from the south)
The DMZ at Panmunjon (seen from the south)

I had the same feeling I had 3 weeks ago, what a sad place to be!

I also saw the Dora observatory, similar to an observatory I've seen from the north side and I have been inside a tunnel. This is the 3rd infiltration tunnel, dug by the north koreans underneath the DMZ and into south korean territory. The last tunnel was detected in 1990 and the south koreans are quite freaked by the tunnels because about 10.000 forces can go through these tunnels in about 1 hour and even small combat vehicles can pass the tunnels. The UN and south korean army have even special fielded tunnel-detection teams, which drill around the clock in hope of intercepting new tunnels.

Yes, the waiting was worth it. Very strange to see a place from two sides and also to hear two complete different stories about the same place. Glad i've been there to hear both sides of the story!

 


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