Categorized | Korea, Travel

Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) South Korea Part 2

The Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, was one of the most interesting places I visited in Korea. After visiting the Joint Security Area, or Panmunjeom, we took a tour of different areas along the border.

We stopped to see in the distance the North Korean “peace village”. Each side has a “peace village” but only the South’s is actually populated. Daeseong-dong in the South is only 350 meters from the Military Demarcation Line which is the defacto border between the two countries. This is the only civilian habitation in the DMZ in the South. The villigers are exepmt from paying tax and military service, but we were told they have to spend a certain number of nights within the village and a nightly curfew. In the 1980s the South Korean government built a huge flagpole in the village standing 323 ft tall to hold a 287 pound flag.

Just 1.38 miles away from Daeseong-dong lies Kijong-dong in the North. It is better known as Propaganda Village. The village was built in the 1950s to show how prosperous the North had become, but further inspection from the South using high powered equipment shows that it is actually uninhabited. After seeing the large flagpole that was built by the South, the North countered with the 2nd largest in the world. A 525 ft flagpole now flies a 595 lb flag. We were told by the American soldiers taking us on the tour that the flag has to be taken down during bad weather or it will tear.

Kijong-dong, North Korea from the DMZ

2nd Largest Flagpole in the World in Kijong-dong

 

 

The next stop on the tour was Dora Observatory on top of Mount Dora. Here you can catch a glimpse of Kijong-dong through binoculars. You can take pictures as well, but only behind the yellow line that is a good ways behind the wall. Why they made us do that I am not sure, but there are soldiers there that were watching everyone. If you tried to take a picture, the would come over and get you to delete the photo. It was difficult to see what you were taking photos of since you had to hold it above your head to actually point it at something worth while. One pair of travelers decided to get a better view by getting on each others backs. It was interesting to look through the binoculars but there wasn’t a whole lot to see that we hadn’t seen already.

Dora Observatory

Dora Observatory

 

 

Trying to get a better view at Dora Observatory

 

 

Next stop on the tour was the Third Infiltration Tunnel. The Third Tunnel was found in 1978 and sits only 27 miles from Seoul. It runs about 240 ft underground and is said to accomidate 30,000 troops per hour in the event of an attack on the South. We got to walk down the tunnel to a point where we could see the border through a small hole. It was really small and the hard hats they provide are a must. I am 6’2″ tall and almost the entire way I had to either slouch down or lower my head to navigate the short tunnel. Pictures are forbidden in the tunnel as well.

When confronted with the tunnel, the North denied building it. There evidence points directly at them however. The drill marks for dynamite point toward the South and the due to the incline the water runs back toward the North, thus staying out of the way for further excavation. Then the North clamied it was a coal mine, but that is also not ture. There have been four tunnels found so far with more suspected.

The last stop on the tour is Dorasan Station. This is the train station that is waiting for the two countries to be reunited. It sits along an old rail line that once connected the two and has since been restored.

Dorasan Station

Dorasan Station - Not the last station from the South, but the first station toward the North.

Overall this was a really cool trip to take. I might actually do it again with some friends in order to take my bigger camera. I was told I could not take my big lens, so I only took my point and shoot. Then nearly everyone there had a large DSLR with a zoom lens. Nearly everything we were told turned out to not be true it seems. We were told to bring out passports, which we never had to show. This wasn’t good for one of my fellow travelers who had her passport lost when trying to get a Chinese visa. She had paid for her tour but then didn’t go because she didn’t have her passport only not to need it. We never did tell her she didn’t need it.

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About Eric Bynum
I taught ESL for three years in South Korea and now I am looking to set out on a new journey after just finishing my teaching certification in the US. I hope to continue teaching and traveling and you can follow his journeys here.

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