Friday, October 22, 2010

DMZ Trip

I got up early on a Saturday morning to board the bus at the USO in Seoul at 730am. I wound up sitting next to a German guy who works in logistics in Shanghai.

my guest badge
The first thing we did after the hour-long drive was get briefed by an American MP and then sign a United Nations visitor's declaration, acknowledging that should things get craaazy, the UNC couldn't necessarily assure our safety.

We were told not to look at or say anything - make any sort of contact whatsoever - should a North Korean soldier come down to the line.

one of our guides
Join Security Area
That's as close as the North Koreans got. I was a bit disappointed
South Korean soldiers
We spent five minutes in the UN conference room that's right on the military line of demarcation, so on the north end of the building you can technically stand in North Korea. Both sides lead tours into the building, but they never enter at the same time.

Here I am standing in North Korea
I have a friend who has visited the North Korea side and he says - from my telling - the rules are much more relaxed.
Bridge of No return

After that we got back on the bus and drove past the Bridge of No Return - where prisoners of war were exchanged at the end of the Korean War. A handful of Americans and Brits chose to stay in North Korea. Only one remains to this day, Comrade Joe - and I've been meaning to watch this documentary on him.

Looking out toward North Korea
observation point
From South Korea
The last stop on the tour was Dorasan Station, a completely equipped train station ready and waiting to ship goods from South Korea, through North Korea and connect with the Trans-Siberian. South Korea is kind of like an island now, there's no land bridge for exports.
"Not the last station from the South, But the first station toward the North"
Dorasan Station
all aboard!
There was a strange PR element to it: We were also made to watch a video about what a bountiful nature reserve the DMZ is (250 kilometers long, 4 kilometers wide, and there hasn't been almost any human activity in it for more than 50 years). I suppose that's one way to look at one of the world's most heavily-armed borders.

We also toured the third infiltration tunnel, but as it was underground and dark I didn't get any pictures. It's one of the tunnels North Koreans dug in order to attack the South. They painted the walls black in order to say they were just digging for coal, but it's a limestone tunnel. Har har.

More pictures tomorrow!

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