Asia South Korea

The World’s Only Demilitarized Zone

The DMZ is a fascinating place. The history of the Korean peninsula and the geopolitical situation there now remain unique around the world, and I was so looking forward to getting a chance to see more of it for myself. I got picked up from Seoul pretty early – obviously, the border is highly regulated, and so my understanding is that there’s a system where you go from Seoul to a park near the DMZ border, then the guide goes and picks up timed tickets and then from there you can get back on the bus at the specific time they give you.

The park where you start out is mostly memorials and information, including some photos and a shot up train that used to run between the Koreas. We had quite a while there while we waited for our logistics to be sorted out.

From there, you take a bus to the Demilitarized Zone. We started with a movie about the whole concept, which is where the title of the post comes from – they talked about how this is the only demilitarized zone in the world, kind of as if it was a flex, which was interesting. Then we were allowed to go into the 3rd infiltration tunnel, which was one of the cooler parts of the whole experience. We all put on hard hats and headed down, where you can walk through the tunnel basically up until North Korean territory. We weren’t allowed to take pictures in the tunnel, but you can take a picture with mannequins of soldiers.

It is a weird tourist destination – sort of like how I had a hard time with Amsterdam making weed and prostitution ~touristy~, there was an element of this that felt very strange. After the infiltration tunnel, you go to the observatory, where you can go to the roof and look through binoculars into North Korea. It’s apparently their third largest city, according to what they told us.

When I was there, it was shortly after that idiot American soldier defected, so the Joint Security Area was closed. It was kind of a bummer because I think that would have been interesting to see, but apparently it gets shut down a lot at any hint of concern so this was probably the more normal version of the tour.

The observatory had a lot of artwork in the lobby about the effects of the separation between North and South Korea, which was pretty interesting to observe. It’s always strange when people don’t cross a border but a border crosses them – my own family experienced that in Central Europe in the early 20th century, but it would be so strange to be in a place that got divided as starkly as North and South Korea for so long.

All in all, a fascinating experience, and something I was glad to get the chance to do while I was in Korea this time. The DMZ is unlike anywhere else.

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