DMZ Half Day Tour

DMZ Half Day Tour

The DMZ or the Korean Demilitarized Zone is one place in the world that you either would very much love or dread to go. It is a no surprise for some people to feel fear since it is only just the most heavily militarized border in the world and people (military and civilians) actually died in some incidents here. But have no fear guys! We went to the DMZ, saw North Korea and came back home safely!

Our tour agency for this trip is VIP Travel. Remember, you cannot go to the DMZ without a tour agency! Yup, you cannot DIY your trip here so get a legit and trusted tour agency! VIP Travel is one of them and they took care of everything for us. Just bring your passport with you, some snacks and you’re all set.

Having said that, let’s begin with our virtual tour of DMZ in this blog post. Read on.

Imjingak Park

We were picked up by VIP Travel in City Hall station at 7:30AM by a nice, almost luxurious bus. Guests can also be picked up in their hotels as long as it’s along the way and there’s spacious parking at the side of the road.

VIP Travel DMZ Tour Bus
VIP Travel DMZ Tour Bus

At around 9AM we arrived at our first stop, the Imjingak Park. This is where the tour agency will register the tourists. While the agency registers your names, you will be given time to explore the park and take pictures. You can go to the Peace Bell, see the Freedom bridge and a steam train called ‘Iron horse wants to run’.

Peace Bell

Peace Bell
Freedom Bridge

Freedom Bridge

Iron Horse wants to run

Iron Horse wants to run. A steam locomotive that was left in the DMZ since it got derailed by bombs during the war. You can see lots of bullet holes and its bent wheels that only shows the cruel situation at that time.

DMZ Ribbons

Ribbons with messages of hope, peace and love

The 3rd Infiltration Tunnel

After the registration, you’ll now travel by bus to the 3rd infiltration tunnel. Going to the tunnel, you’ll pass a bridge they call ‘Cow Bridge’. The construction was sponsored by Chung Ju-Yung, founder of Hyundai. They call it such because in 1998, Chung Ju-Yung led 50 trucks holding 500 cows to North Korea as payment from the 2 cows he stole from his father when he was still in Japanese Korea (now North Korea). Young soldiers that are stationed here would check everyone’s passport so please have your passport ready always.

You’ll notice that I don’t have pictures of the cow bridge because it’s prohibited to take pictures while inside the bus. So please, always listen to your tour guide attentively. You might get into trouble if you don’t.

The 3rd infiltration tunnel (or the 3rd Tunnel of aggression) is one of the four known tunnels built by North Korea aimed to use as passage across the border to infiltrate South Korea. South Korea believes that there are 20 more tunnels built but haven’t been discovered yet.

 

Before proceeding to the tunnel, our tour guide let us watch a short film about the history of the DMZ and the tunnels. After learning a lot from that film, tourists will proceed to the entrance of the tunnel and our tour guide explained the tunnel’s map and reminded us that taking pictures inside the tunnel is strictly prohibited. You have to leave your belongings (if any) in a locker provided.

3rd Tunnel Map

3rd Tunnel Map

At the tunnel’s entrance, you have to pick and wear a protective cap because there are areas wherein its height is less than 6 feet that you have to duck down to move forward. Going down the long steep incline up to the end where the MDL (Military Demarcation Line) is easy but going up is the real test! Please tell the tour guide beforehand if you have any ailments because going back up ain’t a joke. We had a real workout that day.

DMZ Police

They’re watching you!

Besides the tunnel, there are also sights in the area worth looking and taking pictures at like the Unifying Earth, a big DMZ logo and a small beautiful park with a pond. You can also buy souvenirs in the gift shop like t-shirts, jacket, fridge magnets, etc.

DMZ logo

Big DMZ logo

Unifying Earth

Unifying Earth

Souvenirs inside the DMZ gift shop

Souvenirs inside the DMZ gift shop

PAJU | Demilitarized Zone DMZ Morning Half Day Tour

Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, is a heavily monitored border in the world considering the conflict within the Korean Peninsula. If you’ll dig more about history, you will come across in a year when a war separated the two countries; North and South. With the DMZ morning half day tour, visit several spots in the zone related to the conflict between the nations.

DMZ sign near the entrance of the third infiltration tunnel.

The two countries signed the Korean Armistice Agreement to “insure a complete cessation of hostilities and of all acts of armed force in Korea until a final peaceful settlement is achieved” but no “final peaceful settlement” has been achieved. This means that no peace treaty was signed and that the Korean War has not officially ended.

A week before my trip to South Korea, rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula dominated headlines on some newswires. This made me a bit upset knowing that my plans might not be pushed through because of the issues. Few days before my flight, North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile. Luckily, there were no tensions happened on the area during my trip.

The Peace Bell, on its location, marks the division of North and South.
The Peace Bell, on its location, marks the division of North and South.

The DMZ morning half day tour I availed from VIP Travels includes a roundtrip pick-up service from major subway stations. After letting the agency know about my hostel address, they advised to pick me up at Hongik University Station. It was 8:30AM when we officially boarded the private coach bus to the demilitarized zone. The DMZ morning half day tour covers four (4) locations: Imjingak Park, 3rd Infiltration Tunnel, Dora Observatory, and the Dorasan Station.

Hundreds of tourists visit the DMZ every day and our tour guide, Jenny, started to introduce the tour and the different destinations to be covered. This is for us to maximize our time in each area since time will be really limited. While on the bus, she narrated how the countries were separated and iterating the significance of each destination.

South Korean soldiers busy monitoring the border

The Korean Demilitarized Zonem (DMZ) is near the 38th parallel and separates the North and South Korea. DMZ is between the demarcation lines that spans 4-kilometers enclosing the exact border between North and South Korea.

With that, she clarified that DMZ morning half day tour is different from the DMZ + Panmunjom Tour. My original goal was the DMZ + Panmunjom Tour because I really want to set foot on the North Korean soil. However, it was a mistake on my part to contact the agency just few days before my trip. For your information, if thousands are allowed to enter DMZ daily, only few slots are allowed for the JSA Tour due to the high security of the area.

Imjingak Park

First stop of the DMZ morning half day tour is the Imjingak, a unification spot that was developed immediately after the declaration of North-South Koreas’ Joint Communique in 1971. Areas that can be found within the destination are the Peace Bell, Stones of Peace Wall, Steam Locomotive at Jangdan Station of the Gyeongui Line, and others. One of the interesting spots is the Stones of Peace Wall encloses 44 rocks. These rocks were collected from battlefields all over the world that have witnessed the suffering and grief of war.

Steam locomotive, a symbol of tragic history of the division into North and South Korea.

3rd Infiltration Tunnel

In 1978, the third infiltration tunnel built by the North Korean side was discovered with the helped of a North Korean defector. It’s 1.6-kilometer long and 73 meters below the demilitarized zone and is only 118 kilometers away from Seoul. Before entering the gateway to the tunnel, all tourists are required to watch an audio-visual presentation narrating the Korean War. There are two ways to get to the tunnel; train that needs reservation days or weeks before the visit, and a steep walkway.

 

Structure depicts seeking of peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Everyone is required to leave all cameras, including phones, in lockers as photography is prohibited inside the tunnel. Tourists are only allowed to bring a bottle of water, wallet, and passport. Before descending the steep walkway, don’t forget to wear your helmet. Taller people might have issues on bumping their heads on the roofing of the tunnel. From the termination point, noticed the walls of the tunnel for dynamite holes and the fake charcoal paints. Upon its discovery, the South Korean government built 3 blockades and tourists ae only allowed up to the third installed blockade.

Dora Observatory

The observation deck is on the northernmost observatory in South Korea where you can view North Korea on a clear day. There is a souvenir shop near the observation deck where you can avail items that are only avail in the DMZ. For the viewing, several binoculars are available for 500KRW for 2-minutes. On a clear and fine day, even without binoculars, you can see the waving 270-kilogram red flag of North Korea on the 160-meter flagpole, the fourth-highest in the world.

Unification Building at the Dora Observatory.
Hazy shot of the propaganda villages on the North Korean side.

You can also hear loud speeches in Korean that come from the massive speakers on the propaganda villages. The green-painted structures are part of the propaganda villages in Kijong-dong that is being used by the North Korea as decoys for luring South Korean defectors. These fake villages is similar to the usual ones except that no North Koreans live there.

Dorasan Station

Last stop for the DMZ morning half day tour is the Dorasan Station, the northernmost South Korean train station located just 700 meters from the southern boundary line. It’s 56 kilometers from Seoul Station and 205 kilometers from Pyeongyang Station in North Korea.  A DMZ Train on the Gyeongui Line travels from Seoul Station to Dorasan Station once a day.

Dorasan Station, last stop of the DMZ Morning Half Day Tour from VIP Travel.

If peace will be achieved in the Korean Peninsula, the Dorasan Station is believed to extend and be connected to the Trans Siberian Railway and Chinese Railway. It can be used as a gateway from Asia to Europe on train. South Koreans are very positive that the countries will arrived on a peace treaty in the future. With that, Dorasan Station is already equipped with metal detectors, x-ray scanners, and passport checkers.

Passengers availing the daily single trip from Seoul Station to Dorasan Station.

Despite of the tensions between the two nations, my visit to the DMZ on the South Korean side exposed me to the realities that these two entities are facing. North Korea tried numerous ways to infiltrate their southern counterpart, yet every South Korean wants unification between the separated countries. Jenny, on her narrations during the tour, is very positive that there will come a time that peace will be achieved that will reconcile North and South Korea.

THINGS TO REMEMBER:

  1. Bring your passport for the tour because South Korean soldiers manually check it before entering the heavily guarded zone.
  2. Always follow instructions from your guide.
  3. There is no dress code (except for Panmunjom Tour) but it’s better to dress properly.

VIP Travel DMZ Morning Half Day Tour

Available Everyday (Except on Mondays and National Holidays)
Time: 08:00AM – 13:15PM
Inclusion: English speaking tour guide, transportation, and entrance fees.
Pick-up and drop-off: After the reservation is confirmed, pick-up service will be held at the location requested by the client.
Contact Nos.: +82-2-739-3501 ~ 4
Email: vip@vviptravel.com

A Look Into North Korea by DMZ Tour

North Korea is a place of intense intrigue. The world sits in collective curiosity about what goes on behind the borders of this country. What is it really like to live there? What does being at the border feel like? Although a lot of my questions could not, of course, be answered with a tour, it was definitely the start of building a further insight into North Korean life.

 

Having recently read Justice Kirby’s United Nations Commission of Inquiry on North Korea, I was adamant that despite all the questions and curiosity I have, I would not visit the country itself. This is due to a personal reluctance to support the North Korean government with tourism dollars. However, after learning about Korean War and all the associated tensions for many years, a DMZ tour is something I could not turn down.

 

The Demilitarized Zone (or “DMZ”) is the border between North and South Korea. Created in 1953, the border spans 250km from each coast of the Korean Peninsula, and is 4km wide. Within the DMZ lies the Joint Security Area (or “JSA”) which is the connection between North and South, and provides a place for negotiations. By visiting the DMZ or JSA, you are not entering North Korean territory itself or providing money to the regime. I decided to go on a Half Day DMZ Tour with VIP Travel. Unfortunately, I was unable to go to the JSA as I was only free on a Sunday and the JSA only operates from Tuesday – Saturday. The guide for the day was Grace, a lovely lady who provided fantastic explanations throughout the day and patiently answered all the questions we had.

 

The day was a mixture of surreality, emotion, and learning. Among the bizarreness, there was a deep feeling of sadness for the enormous human suffering occurring here.

Imjingak Park and Freedom Bridge


From Seoul, we drove along a highway which had a tall, barbed-wire fence to the side. The wire was occasionally interrupted by a heavily-armed military guard post, complete with camouflage-clad South Korean soldiers. The road followed alongside the Imjin River, twisting and turning with the bends, with the land on the other side belonging to North Korea.

 

It was strange to see it with my own eyes.

 

After an hour we arrived at Imjingak, the last village before the DMZ, which has a park dedicated to consoling the families divided by the splitting of North and South Korea. Here is where the enormity of the impact sinks in. Thousands of families broken and displaced by the division.

 

Ribbons, flags, and ID cards, all covered with written messages of love and hope, cover the fences and flutter in the wind. The Freedom Bridge, a long white bridge over the Imjin River, is the former railroad bridge used for repatriation of POWs. It is a testament to the complexity of the long-standing tensions between these two nations. There are many parts of this site where photography is forbidden.

Ribbons lining the barbed-wire fence and Imjingak Park
Ribbons lining the barbed-wire fence and Imjingak Park
Looking over the Freedom Bridge from Imjingak Park
Looking over the Freedom Bridge from Imjingak Park

3rd Infiltration Tunnel


The next stop on the journey was the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel. It is one of four discovered tunnels built from North Korea into South Korean territory after the war. Made using dynamite with an unknown human death toll, the tunnel lies 73m below ground.

 

With a bright yellow helmet on atop my head, I descended into the tunnel. The wet and jagged sides of the tunnel still contained the holes used to place dynamite. As the walk down the tunnel continued, I was edging closer and closer toward North Korean territory. At the nearest point, it was just over 100m from the border.

 

Visiting the infiltration tunnels is not only a decent cardio workout, but it also provides an unparalleled insight into the tensions of post-War Korea. It explores the depths of espionage and sabotage, even in times of supposed peace. It was here that you first really notice the sounds of music and notices blared through a series of speakers. Grace explained that both the North and South play songs and notices, as well and exclamations of superiority, Apparently, at the moment, the South is winning in this battle of the broadcast due to superior technology.

 

You are not permitted to film or take photography within the tunnels themselves, and all belongings must be stored in a locker before entering.

Dora Observatory

dmz tour

The binoculars looking over the DMZ and into North Korea

 

The Dora Observatory is the crescendo of the Half-Day DMZ Tour. As the bus winds up the hill, a large camo-painted building makes its presence felt. The building (Dora Observatory), it turns out, looks like a military lecture theatre which overlooks North Korean land. Walking in there felt a little bit bizarre. Thinking back to my own closed-wall lecture theatres in Clayton, it was a little different to the panoramic view here over the world’s most strict Communist State.

 

For 500 won, you can look through the binoculars over the North Korean territory. Although you can see the land and towns well without them, the binoculars serve well to actually see people and the details across the border. From this view point you can see the towns of Gaeseong and Songaksan, as well as the Cooperation Farm and a statue of Kim-Il-Sung. I could not see any people myself, although others in our group did, but was able to see the details of the flags and towns.

Overlooking North Korea from Dora Observatory. The photo is not clear, but to the right hand side is the town of Kijŏng-dong, or "Propaganda Village", with a 160m North Korean flagpole.
Overlooking North Korea from Dora Observatory. The photo is not clear, but to the right hand side is the town of Kijŏng-dong, or “Propaganda Village”, with a 160m North Korean flagpole.

The town of Kijŏng-dong was the most prominent. Mostly due to the dominating 160m flagpole rising from the sky-blue and white buildings, with a large red, white and blue North Korean national flag waving surreally in the summer breeze. And just across the demarkation there was a slightly shorter flagpole proudly displaying the South Korean flag. Grace carefully recounted the tale of the flag poles to our group. The two sides contended to have the largest flag pole, constantly making their flag poles taller than the other. It all began with the 94m South Korean flagpole, which was countered with the North Korean 160m pole. Nicknamed the “Flagpole War”, it is a blatant display of propaganda which, eventually, the North Koreans won. Or, as Grace explained, the South Koreans simply gave up on playing the game and let them have their win. The North Korean flag pole remains the fourth biggest in the world.

 

As at the Infiltration Tunnels, the South Korean propaganda speakers are blaring music and messages. Except at Dora Observatory it is slightly different, because occasionally you can hear the propaganda coming back from the North. It is more marching songs with a military and nationalistic feel, as opposed to the South which feels more like pop music.

 

Kijŏng-dong is nicknamed “Propaganda Village”. I had heard quite a lot about this “Propaganda Village” so it was weird to see it in person. Although it is hard to know exactly what the truth is, apparently Kijŏng-dong itself is nothing more than a charade. The South Koreans claim that the buildings are uninhabited (having looked with telescopic lenses to find that none of the buildings contain glass in the windows, and no signs of life), whereas the North claims that it is a collective farm. It was all rather intriguing to view.

 

 

Dorasan Station


After finishing at the Dora Observatory, it was time to head to the final stop of Dorasan Station. It is the last train station in South Korea before the North. I had recently watched a video about the journey to Dorasan from Seoul so visiting here was an added bonus to the itinerary. Dorasan was built when tensions with the North were low and served as a train line across the border to ferry workers from the North to work in the South. However, since tensions have increased, the train line and factories have shut, leaving it empty of visitors. If the lines were open, this station would connect South Korea with the Trans-Siberian railway, and hence Europe.

 

The station itself is modern and clean, and it feels as though it should be packed with commuters. However, it is empty.

 

I bought a train ticket and headed to the platform to check it out. It was like any other station in appearance, except there was a looming and eerie feeling that it was rather different. The platform was empty aside from myself and several fully-armed Korean guards. It was hard to believe that only a few years ago this was an active station between South and North Korea, with hundreds of people passing through every day. There was a sense of optimism that one day it would again reopen.

A train ticket has to be bought to enter the Dorasan railway platform
A train ticket has to be bought to enter the Dorasan railway platform
The Dorasan Station platform, empty of people except for myself and several South Korean guards
The Dorasan Station platform, empty of people except for myself and several South Korean guards

Both the historic and present relationship between North and South Korea is tumultuous and complicated. Visiting the DMZ was a way to explore this relationship and dynamic without funding the regime. It was an eye-opening day and has prompted me to continue reading and further educate myself about the situation. I hope this post can demonstrate some of the complexities of the relationship and the DMZ itself, as well as provide assistance to those who also wish to visit the DMZ. For deeper reading about the occurrences in North Korea itself, I would strongly recommend reading the United Nations Commission.

 

 

General information


The DMZ and JSA are part of a civilian controlled zone so can only be accessed by tour.

 

Tour options: Half-Day (4 hours) or Full-Day; can be DMZ only, DMZ plus JSA, or JSA only. JSA and DMZ tour is the recommended option.

Cost: between $40 and $200USD depending on the tour type and operator

Leaving from: Most tours leave from Seoul

Photography: allowed at many sites, but there are particular areas unable to be photographed. It is important to obey the signs as they will be enforced.

Dress codes: dress codes apply if you are visiting the JSA, but not the DMZ. Requirements will be supplied by your tour company.

Food and drinks: there are plenty of convenience stores at each point to purchase food and drinks, these are more expensive than buying it before the tour.

go to dmz tour : http://www.vviptravel.com/eng/korea/seoul_dmz_tour.php

article from http://www.thetraveltextbook.com/dmz-tour/

DMZ(Korea Demilitarized Zone) Tour, Must see South Korea tourist attraction

Korea Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) – Must see South Korea tourist attraction

Today is a clear sunny Saturday and we are off to the afternoon tour of the Korea Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)!

The group of about 30 of us gathered near Itaewon subway station at 11am and off we went on a get-to-know North Korea journey!

Duration of afternoon tour: 11am-5pm

Places of attractions: Imjingak, 3rd Underground Tunnel, Dorasan Observatory and Dorasan Train Station

This post will mainly be pictures. To read about the details of DMZ, please visit here 

» First Stop: Imjingak
dmz - Imjingak

This unique structure is picture worthy. Not just that, it houses numerous restaurants, cafes and stores selling Korea products. The view from the top level of the structure provides a bird eye view of the Imjingak area!

dmz - Imjingak

dmz - Imjingak

dmz - Imjingak

Mailboxes are available for letters to be posted. Postcards left in the red box will be delivered to senders after a period of one year. We can also choose to post in the brown box, which will be shown in exhibitions.

Cute statues are placed alongside the entrance of the wooden bridge.

dmz tour
A tranquil atmosphere as people stroll along the wooden bridge and a peaceful garden can also be seen below the wooden bridge.


At the end of the wooden bridge is an area filled with South Korea’s national flags and colorful ribbons with messages penned by people for the dispersed families.

The freedom bridge - DMZ Tour
The freedom bridge can be seen from afar. This railway bridge was named after the prisoners-of-war (POWs) returned to South Korea via this bridge when the Korea War ceased in 1953.

Imjingak
A bird eye view of Imjingak from the top level of the Imjingak structure building.


A song was created to commemorate the dispersion of the Korean families. A button can be pressed to hear the song.

There is also a Korean traditional food and snacks stall for our hungry stomachs!

» 2nd Stop: 3rd Underground Tunnel


Over here, we watched a 8 minutes video which gave us a glimpse into the history of DMZ and the various underground tunnels that North Koreans tried to use to infiltrate South Korea. Thereafter, we went on a short museum tour and lastly, we visited the underground tunnel.

DMZ and the various underground tunnels

DMZ and the various underground tunnels

DMZ and the various underground tunnels
Lockers are provided to place personal belongings and cameras as no cameras are allowed in the underground tunnel.


Souvenir shop selling DMZ souvenirs and products.

» 3rd Stop: Dorasan Observatory

Over here, we got to view North Korea’s territory using the binoculars.

Dorasan Observatory
A guard post at the South Korea side that overlooks the North Korea’s territory.

» Last Stop: Dorasan Train Station

This train station was initially built with its main intention to connect South Korea to Pyeongyang, the capital of North Korea. However, the tension between the two countries have led to the cessation of train operations.

For more information about the DMZ afternoon tour, please visit here.

For more details about the DMZ, please visit here.

DMZ Tour

DMZ Tour

dmz tour

Here is special tour showing Korean tragic history.

location dmz(source: https://www.google.co.kr/maps)

 

After World War II, Korea could be free from Japanese colonial rule in 1945. Korea has been under the Japanese colonial rule for 35 years since 1910. Soviet Union and USA came to Korea to pull out Japanese army. However, Soviet Union occupied North Korea under communism, and USA occupied South Korea under democracy.

 (source: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/06/28/world/asia/korean-war-fast-facts/)


(source: http://nonsuchhp.blogspot.kr/2013/07/korean-war-anniversary.html)

 

In 1950, North Korea suddenly attacked South Korea to rule whole peninsula under communism. The war is called Korean War or 6.25 War. The war occurred on June 25th, that’s why. It is unforgettable day for Koreans.

The war lasted 3 years and finally, truce agreement was signed among North Korea, Soviet Union and USA in JSA (Joint Security Area) in 1953. MDL, the Military Demarcation Line was made at that time based on the territory the South and North occupied in those days.

 

DMZ has been served as the buffer zone between South and North Korea, 2kms from MDL line to north side, 2kms to south side. And from that time to now, Korean peninsula has been divided two parts, many families separated and broken.

dmz area
(source: http://www.yonhapnews.co.kr/local/2013/07/24/0811000000AKR20130724063500004.HTML)

 

The North and South boundaries are 2kms from Military demarcation line in principle. But you find they are irregular. To take more territory, We are getting closer. The closest distance is under 800 meters.

 

imjingak park

Imjingak Park

Firstly, We will stop by Imjingak park.

Imjingak park is one of representative Korea unification tourist places which was developed immediately after the north-south joint declaration in 1972.

In Imjingak park, There are Mangbaedan altar, Bridge of Freedom, Bell of Peace and Stream locomotive at Jangdan station of Gyung-ui line.

The group less than 30 people takes shuttle bus here for tour.

 Mangbaedan

Mangbaedan is a permanent alter established by the government at Imjingak, overlooking the lands of North Korea. After Korean War, Five million people left their home in the north. The refugees built a temporary altar at Imjingak on every Chuseok (Korean Thanks giving day), held an ritual ceremony to honor their ancestor and parents who had been left behind in North Korea, and longed for a permanent altar. The pagoda at the center represents the earnest longing for the reunification of the country, and prayers for the welfare of those in North Korea.

Bridge of Freedom

It is bridge crossing over Imgingang river between North and South Korea. It was originally railroad of Kyung-ui line and remodeled as highway. 12,799 war-prisoners of the Korean armed forces and the U.N troops had repatriated via this bridge after Korean war. The prisoners reached the Gyeongui line bridge by car and walked across the bridge of freedom.

As the symbol of the tragedy of Korean war, It was used for the road of the North-South Korean summit.

 

There are South Korea flags and ribbons with messages wishing for reunification.

Steam Locomotive at Jangdan station

Steam Locomotive at Jangdan station2

Steam Locomotive at Jangdan station

It is locomotive used to move military supply during the Korean War. This train was run after Chinese troops and derailed by bomb attack. It was found derailed at Jangdan station in 2007 and moved to Imjingak park.

 Bell of peaceBell of peace

The bell represents the peace of mankind and unification of the Korean nation for the new millennium. To commemorate the 21st century, the bell weighs 21 tons, and has 21 stairs.

dmz tourTunnel and Theater area

First place we will look around is tunnel and theater area.

We will watch some video on Korean history and DMZ in one theater. (In the theater, taking picture is not allowed.)

And we will move to exhibition hall. It exhibits whole map of DMZ area, great accidents between North and South Korea, North Korea’s weapon used during the war.

In the map, You can check the location of Imjingak park, Dorasan station, Tunnel and even JSA.

Here is third tunnel found in 1978. It is the closest one, 52kms only from Seoul city.

After finding this tunnel, our government asked about tunnel to North Korea. They answered ‘It is coal mine’. But there is evidence that this tunnel was intended for invading the South.

First, the tunnel is sloped approximately 0.003 degrees towards the North, which causes water to be drained to the North.

Secondly, the dynamite holes on the wall meant to explode base rock, facing South.

Lastly, although coal was never found in this area, traces were left upon the rock wall to disguise the tunnel as an abandoned coal mine.

In 1971, North Koreans started digging out tunnels following Kim il-sung, the north Korea president‘s order. Until now, 4 tunnels were discovered, but we are expecting there will be about 20 more which are veiled.

Until third tunnel, They were concentrated on central or western part of DMZ. But, after finding fourth tunnel in Gangwondo province, the east coast area, We realized tunnels spread throughout whole DMZ area.

The third tunnel is 1,635-meter-long tunnel, north part is 1,200ms and south part is 435ms. 73ms deep vertically. Before MDL line, 170ms of tunnel was shut down with 3 concrete blockades which were installed to prevent the usage by North.

After walking down 358-meter-artificial walkway, you can find North Korea’s work termination point and tunnel starting point. Walking 265-meter-tunnel way, you will see the 3rd blockade and MDL line through window at the end point. And please return to starting point and go out to exit.

In tunnel, cell phones, cameras and any machine are not allowed to take inside. So, You should put your belongings in locker, even your small bag.

It has so low ceiling that you should wear helmet and bend over your backs even with helmets. If you feel too hard in the midway, just return to starting point and go out to exit. We don’t recommend entering tunnel to the person who has illness like heart disease, claustrophobia, hypertension, diabetes.

Dora observatoryDora observatory

Dora observatory is on the top of Mountain Dora that has one of the best and closest views of North Korea from South Korea. You can use telescopes here to observe North Korea and the Demilitarized zone (DMZ). Here you can see Kijeong-dong propaganda village, Gaeseong city (the third largest city in the north), Gaeseong industrial complex, a bronze statue of the first leader of North Korea. You can take photos here anywhere you want. When you look down the north area, you might feel some sentiments. And also it is surprising how close South and North Korea.

 

In, DMZ, there are only 2 towns that inside each North and South. Daeseong is a town in South Korea close to the North Korean border. It is the only civilian habitation within the Southern portion of the DMZ. Daeseongdong is only one mile from Kijeongdong, a village in North Korea’s portion of the DMZ.

 

In the 1980s, the South Korean government built a 98.4 m flagpole in 대성동, which flies a South Korean flag weighing 130kg. In what some have called the “flagpole war”, the North Korean government responded by building the 160 m Panmunjeom flagpole in 기정동, only 1.2 km (0.7 mi) west of the border with South Korea. It flies a 270 kg flag of North Korea. As of 2014, the Panmunjeom flagpole is the 3rd tallest in the world.

 

And, here, Massive loudspeakers mounted on several of the buildings deliver propaganda broadcasts from the North directly towards the South. Originally the content is usually extolling the North’s virtues in great detail. Eventually, as its value in inducing defections proved minimal, the content was switched to condemnatory anti-Western speeches, agitprop operas, and patriotic marching music for up to 20 hours a day. Usually, From the south, they only play K-pop music.

 

And The Gaeseong Industrial Complex is located inside North Korea just across the Demilitarized zone from South Korea. And you can easily and clearly see this complex. The project was launched in 2004, largely financed by the South to increase co-operation with the North. That was the first historical affair in 59 after the war. 800 South Korean workers passed here to work everyday. In our aspects, the labor cost of North was way cheaper than South Korea, and for The North, they could create more jobs for people who were unemployed. And they could speak the same languages so that they didn’t have to have any translator.  As of April 2013, 123 South Korean companies were employing approximately 53,000 DPRK workers and 800 ROK staff. Their wages, totalling $90 million each year, had been paid directly to the North Korean government.

 

So it was win win for both of us. But unfortunately, the factory is not working at the moment. After the current leader became the president, the tension has become really high.  In April 2013, the North shut down the complex for more than four months, after heightened tensions.

 

But Last year, 2016, the South Korean Ministry of Unification announced that the industrial park would be “temporarily” closed down and all staff recalled, partly in protest over continued North Korean provocations, including a satellite launch and bomb test in January 2016. The next day, the North announced it was expelling all South Korean workers and said it will freeze all South Korean assets and equipment at the jointly run factory park.

dorasan stationDorasan station

Dorasan station is railroad station located on Gyeongui line which made by Japanese government in 1910,  connected from South and North before the Korean war. It is located 56km from Seoul station and 205km from Pyeongyang-the capital city in North. On June 15, 2000, South Korea and North Korea agreed to connect the Gyeongui line which would link both countries. And connects the world.

The railroad line was finally connected at the military demarcation line on June 14, 2003.

In late 2007, Cargo train with industrial supplies began traveling into North Korea on a daily basis. However, On dec 1, 2008, the border was closed by the government of North and the cargo trains stopped. Now , When we enter, the station is empty. But the reason why the government wants it to be maintained is because they still hope for the unification. So, this place is very symbolic area for South Korean.

You can put the commemoration stamps here

This is the map of what could be a Trans-Eurasian rail. This is providing a blue-print for the future.

So, if the two Korea is ever re-unite, Dorasan station is the station that will connect them and the world.

One of the most interesting thing here is once the station is fully functional, the line will connect with the Trans Eurasian railway. So. If North opends up to the world, the world will be more connected.

The list of donors who donated their money on the re connection of this railroad to the north. Around 13,000 people donated even though it could be a just symbolic area. It shows their continuous wishing and hoping for the connection and unification between the South and the North.

On Feb 2002 President Kim, Dae-Jung and George Bush drew worldwide attention when they met here as symbol of peace and hope for the reunification on the two divided country.

So, DMZ tour is where we can learn about what the war has left us between the South and the North. And what we can do for the bright future.

In the modern days, we seem to be too busy to think of the meaning of unification or sorrow of the war.

So, I hope the tour leads us to be conscious about the war, scars, pain, and the unification.

For more DMZ Tour Information here! 

Seoul City Tour ­ Traditional royal palaces and beyond

vviSeoul City Tour ­ Traditional royal palaces and beyond

This week, we went on a Seoul city tour which encompassed 2 palaces, 1 temple and 2 famous cultural streets in Seoul!

First stop: Jogyesa Temple

Jogyesa Temple was a really beautiful sight decorated with many colorful lanterns. These lanterns were hung to commemorate the upcoming Korean public holiday, Buddha’s Birthday. As an appreciation for the donors’, their wishes were written on the lanterns and hung around the temple’s compound.

Many temples in South Korea are located in mountainous areas. Therefore, it is rare of the Jogyesa Temple to be located right near Insadong, a prominent cultural street in the city. It has a long history being founded in 1395, and is one of the most prominent and important Buddhist temple in South Korea. The temple gave me a sense of calmness and tranquility when I entered its premises, and is a stark contrast from the busy and hectic streets in Seoul.

Second stop: Gyeongbokgung Palace

Out of the 5 royal palaces built by the Joseon dynasty in Seoul, the most popular and grandest one ought to be Gyeongbokgung Palace. Built in 1395, it used to be a huge compound with 7700 rooms. However, the colonization of Korea by the Japanese has led to the destruction of most of the rooms. Although the palace has yet to be rebuilt to its original grandeur, its vast and magnificent compound is still a sight to behold. By listening to the explanation of our helpful tour guide, I not only appreciated the beauty of the palace construction but also the intricate meaning behind the various building constructions.

 

Isn’t this gate very grand? Are you able to visualize yourself being a minister riding on a horse and entering the gate of the capital city in the olden days?

As the entrance fee of the 5 royal palaces is free for visitors who wear the hanbok (Korean traditional costume), we got to see many people who don on the beautiful hanboks entering the palace, adding a vibrant feel to the palace.

Shortly after we entered the palace, we gathered at the main gate and watched the changing of guards ceremony. As explained by our guide, the changing of guards ceremony was an important event in the past because the safety and security and the king and the palace was of the utmost importance. It was for the same reason that there were barely any trees planted in the palace’s compound ­ because spies and assassinators may be hiding behind them!

Next up, touring the main palace! A really nice beautiful day with clear skies!

The first building that came into view was the Geunjeongjeon Hall (勤政殿). It was the throne hall where the King greeted his officials (while they stood in line in terms of their ranking) and gave important national declarations. This significant building was designated as Korea’s National Treasure No. 223 on January 8, 1985

There were many carved animal sculptures throughout the palace. This is due to past belief that they could ward off evil and protect the palace.

The King’s throne hall was an impressive sight to behold with the throne chair. It was so meticulously designed that even the ceiling had golden dragons’ sculptures to signify the mightiness and nobleness of the King.

Lots of corners and small “doors” within the Palace.

Gyeonghoeru Pavilion (慶會樓)was the location where the King used to hold state banquets and feasts. It was constructed on a rectangular lake. This scene was extremely breathtaking and picturesque.

Another breathtaking must-see location was the Hyangwonjeong Pavilion (香遠亭). It was a small two storey hexagonal structure, constructed with Chinese influenced design. This was also built near a lake. The bridge connects the pavilion to palace grounds. We were told that the King would sometimes come here for a quiet evening with the concubines.

The structure shown in the picture below was located slightly away from the main palace grounds and was the private library of King. Named as the Jibokjae 集玉齋, which means congregation of the Jade, it signifies how important and precious was, given how important people in the past viewed jade as. Similar to Hyangwonjeong Pavilion (香遠亭), its architecture was greatly influenced with the Chinese.

With that, we ended the morning tour for the Gyeongbokgung Palace. The presidential Blue House came into view when we stepped out of the palace. It was another tourist attraction and was special due to its iconic blue roof tiles. We were informed that blue color signifies professionalism in Korea in the past. Thus the roof tiles of one of the King’s hall where he dealt with country’s matter was also painted blue. Behind the presidential Blue House was a mountain. The Koreans believed in feng shui. Palaces need to be backed by a mountain and need to face water for luck and prosperity.

We then proceeded to have delicious lunch at Myeongdong in this beautifully decorated Korean restaurant.

After lunch, we continued our tour to visit another royal palace – Changdeokgung Palace. This was the second royal palace built after Gyeongbokgung Palace. Its scale is smaller than Gyeongbokgung Palace and there were fewer tourists.

Similarly, for feng shui and good fortune, this palace also has a mountain back and water front.

Injeongjeon Hall was the first building structure that came into view after entering the grounds of Changdeokgung Palace. It was the place where the King conducted major state affairs and received foreign envoys, and was thus the most important building structure of the palace.

On the preserved walkway leading up to the Injeongjeon Hall were stone markers inscribed with the ranks of court officials. This was for the officials to stand in line when they greeted the King. Higher ranked officials stood closer to the King and vice versa.

Pretty scene within the palace.

Daejojeon Hall shown in the picture below was the official residence of the Queen and it was used as a residence for the last empress of the Joseon Dynasty.

This was a building structure built with a distinct difference in the form of architecture and color selection compared to the other palace buildings. However, the tranquility ambience was preserved.

After the afternoon palace tour, we ended the tour with a short visit to the cultural street Insadong and traditional Namdaemun market.

 

Insadong street is lined with stores selling traditional and cultural souvenirs. Like other streets in Seoul, there are also cafes, restaurants and cosmetic stores. In the middle of the road are numerous push carts selling small items or snacks.

The interesting thing about Insadong street is that many stores with English names have lightboxes in Hangul, the Korean alphabet. Perhaps this was intentionally done to preserve the traditional and cultural feel of Insadong street.

Namdaemun traditional market opened in 1964 and is the largest traditional market in South Korea selling traditional goods. Unlike other popular tourist streets like Myeondong and Gangnam, Namdaemun preserved its traditional vibe and many shops here seem to have retained its traditional decoration.

Came across this raw seafood stall in the middle of the street. Kind of cool.

With the guidance of our tour guide, we also visited the pottery market and the flower market located in Namdaemun market. They were a rare eye opener and we would not have discovered them by ourselves if not for our tour guide!

All in all, the Seoul city tour was jam packed with tourist attractions, and it provided me with a glimpse into Seoul major attractions (especially the cultural aspects) in one day.

Click below for more information
Seoul City Tour

 

Strawberry Farm Tour in Korea (During December to June)

Today’s tour is ‘Strawberry Farm Tour’!! Let’s go~!

The Farm is located in Namyang-ju, in Gyeonggi-do Province the eastern side of Seoul city.

From center of Seoul to the farm, It takes about 1 hour.

You can get around farm by subway, too. The farm is nearby Ungilsan station of Gyeongui Line.

On the way to the farm, You will see Han gang river.

It is fourth longest river in Korea with 514km long flow. Han means big and sacred. Gang means river. The water is used for industrial, agricultural and living purpose.

When you cross the Paldang bridge, you will find totally different scenery and atmosphere from city. Namyangju, the suburban area surrounded with Han river and nature shows beautiful scenery.

The strawberry farm consists of vinyl greenhouses. They keep the temperature warm even in cold winter. Strawberry season in Korea is from January to May.

 

Firstly, we will get inside one of them and pick strawberries.

Before entering vinyl greenhouse, There are some precautions.

  1. Please do not cross ridges.
  2. Please do not run and mess around in the farm.
  3. Please do not pick strawberry flowers.
  4. Please pick only ‘ripe’ ones.
  5. Please put your strawberries only in given plastic container.
  6. Please Put the lid back on after you finish picking strawberries.
  7. Please do not throw away strawberry on the ground.
  8. Please do not touch bee and hive.

**You can taste strawberries while you pick them. But, Please do not throw away strawberry’s stem on the ground. At the entrance of vinyl greenhouse, you can find trash can.

There are ridges with strawberry and flower. The yellow box is hive. Be careful not to touch or open that. On both sides of vinyl house, Green onions are planted.

  

Strawberry came to Korea from America through Japan in 20 century. In 2002, We did plant breeding for Korean strawberry and it was successful. Due to soft and sweet taste, It became popular in the east asian market.

Strawberry flower looks cherry blossom with white petal.

Keep picking strawberries until the box could be closed~!

They completed picking strawberries. Then, We moved to the other vinyl house to make strawberry jam!

There are many tables and seat set for making jam activity. Sometimes, Families and big group tourist from kindergarten and schools visit here to enjoy farm activities.

The host is making strawberry jam in big pot. That is the quantity for 30 mans!

Strawberry, sugar and pan are prepared for us. (The strawberries are additional ones that the host prepared.) It looks quite less than the host’s oneJ

It is 2 parts of strawberry to 1 part of sugar. The more you add sugar, The longer you can keep the jam

Mash and squeeze them with hand.

Boiling it, We will stir it for 20 minutes.

 

Please stir it continuously. It becomes pink.

Stop boiling and stir it with a little lemon juice. Lemon juice helps it to be stored longer.

After cooled down, It looks like normal strawberry jam with dark red color!

Put it in the bottles and Have a taste the jam with cracker. It is so sweet

Completed!

They sell the matured in honey strawberry. You can drink it with water as tea or with carbonated water as ade.

Click below for more information

Strawberry Farm Tour

 

Nami Island and Petite France, Into nature and imagination

Nami Island and Petite France ­ Into nature and imagination

Today we went on a tour to the highly popular Korea tourist attractions – Nami Island and Petite France. They are located outside of Seoul and are situated

Nami Island

Excerpt from the Nami Island brochure the summarizes the history and unique points of the Island:

“Situated 63km from Seoul

In the middle of the Han River,

Nami Island looks like a leaf floating

Gracefully on top of Cheongpyeong Lake.

 

The island has an area of 460,000m2

With a circumference of 5km.

Formed with pebbles and sand,

There are no mountains in the island, but

There are trees tall enough to touch the sky.

Wide grassy gardens where deer,

Ostriches, rabbits, squirrels,

Ducks and countless types of birds flourish

Nami island is a place where not only nature

But also human beings can coexist.

Nami island was named after General Nami,

A notable figure in Korean history

Who courageously fought the battles

But died at the age of 26.

 

Seasonal rain used to transform this land into an island,

And with the construction of Cheongpyeong dam,

It is now an island all year long.

In 1965, thousands of trees were planted

By Mr. Byeong-Do Minn.

 

Today Nami Island is a place for rest and relaxation.

Human beings, animals and trees share peace,

Love and harmony far away from crowds and civilization.”

 

After a comfortable ride of about 1 hour on the mini bus, we arrived at the Immigration to take a short 5 minutes ferry ride to Naminara Republic. Nara means nation in Korean, and thus Naminara means the Nami nation. And the reason for this is because (in the words of Naminara) “Years ago Nami Island declared its cultural independence and became Naminara Republic. We are a micro-nation and our exports are mainly imagination and fairy tales”.

 

The ferry is very spacious with lots of standing and sitting spaces. One may also stand on the outside to enjoy the view and take pictures during the journey to Nami Island.

In no time, we reached Nami Island and were greeted by the cute pebble sculpture and magnificent ice sculpture.

Nami Island is a relaxing and peaceful environment with lots and lots of trees. The first (and most popular) lane that we were greeted with was the Metasequoia Lane. As most might already known, this lane became really popular as it was one of the filming site of the popular Korean drama Winter Sonata. Besides this lane, there is also the gingko tree lane, cherry tree lane, Korean pine tree lane, white birch lane and reed woods lane. Although the trees were not donned with as much leaves as they would have been during the other seasons, the tall and huge number of trees were still a magnificent sight. Lots of photo taking began!

 

Being the filming site for the Kdrama Winter Sonata several years ago, there were several locations with the main actor and actress’ statue and pictures.

 

This was the kissing scene that appeared in the show. It was really cute with two little snowmen leaning against each other and overseeing the beautiful lake. A really nice location to take wonderful romantic pictures with your loved ones. And as they were not made of real ice, there is no worry about them melting.

One can also take the UNICEF Charity Train ride around the island. A part of its earnings is donated to the Korean Committee for UNICEF to help children in need. The island is also small enough to walk around by foot. Nice to take pictures with the train tracks too!

Besides the tranquil natural scenery, Nami Island is continually improving its landscape and introducing new items on its ground so as to provide visitors with a memorable experience. A few years earlier, they introduced the Asian sculpturesonnto the landscape for an interesting and welcoming touch for foreign visitors. A cute photo taking site!

Soju bottles were also used to create this art piece along the small bridge.

A picture speaks a thousand words. You really do have to visit Nami Island for yourself to experience the scenery that cannot be found in Seoul and other parts of South Korea. No wonder Nami Island is one of the most visited site for foreigners and locals alike. In fact, the landscape looks different every season, and is thus a huge pulling factor for repeat visits. I visited it during summer previously and it gave me a different vibe this time round. A stone throw from Seoul, but provides a totally different feeling.

 

Next stop, the French cultural village Petite France!

Petite France’s concept is ‘flowers, stars, and the Little Prince.’ Because there is a memorial hall dedicated to Saint-Exupery, the author of the celebrated French novel, Le Petit Prince (1943), this village is thus named the Little Prince theme park. Visitors are reminded of the French culture through the paintings, sculptures and musical performances.

 

Petite France is also known to be the filming location for popular Korean dramas like ‘My Love from the Star’ and ‘Secret Garden’.

Bricks were considerately placed for female visitors to cover up the female actress and take pictures with the portrait of the male actor Kim Soo-Hyun.

 

There were also many paintings and items that will remind “The Little Prince” lovers of the wonderful novel, and to see it come to life.

 

We also got to catch the remarkable puppet show performance where the various puppets danced to several songs, including Michael Jackson’s ! The show was really captivating and it put a nice finishing end to our Petite France tour.

 

Tour information : Click below

Nami Island Tour, Petite France Tour

 

 

Suwon Hwaseong Fortress and YongIn Folk Village Tour Tips & Review

Suwon Hwaseong Fortress UNESCO World Heritage and YongIn Folk Village ­ Let’s travel back to the past!

Today we went on a tour to experience the traditional livelihood of the Korean community. Thankful for the clear blue day and nice weather!

Suwon Hwaseong Fortress.

First Stop: Suwon Hwaseong Fortress. This is a remarkable cultural heritage piece constructed using scientific methods during the latter period of the Joseon Dynasty as a display of the King’s filial piety and as an attempt to change the then capital.

Visited also by the local variety show: KBS 2 Days 1 Night.

We took the king’s car to reach the palace entrance as the place is huge! A really comfortable luxurious ride.

Ta-dah! We reached the Haenggung Palace. Doesn’t it give you a back into the past feel? On the left hand side is a Daejanggeum (Jewel in the Palace) portrait because this site was one of the filming site of the famous Korean drama.

5 different color flags to protect from the palace from all sides ­ all 4 directions and the middle.

Great intricate construction of the palace. Even the rooftop was meticulously designed and constructed.

 

We also saw an aged tree in the palace ground which is known to be about 600-700 years old. It was a place for visitors to make a wish and we certainly did too. May our wishes come true!

In the Korean traditional context, only royal palaces can paint peony flowers in their territories. Commoners were not allowed to use it for decoration of their houses. It is a form of differentiation among the people then.

Lots of doors to pass through. I find the doors quite short. Wondering if it was due to the shorter heights of people then due to a relative lack of nutrition?

Wall mural painting on the palace wall depicting the King’s adventure. They did not have cameras in the past so they used paintings to keep track of the major events.

Display of the kitchen with drama shots of the famous drama Daejanggeum.

We also managed to catch the marvelous traditional martial arts and archery performance. For the moment, I was brought back to the past with the traditional backdrop, the traditional costume of the performers and their superb skills.

 

Hungry from the morning palace tour, we were brought to the restaurant to eat the food that Suwon is known for ­ Bulgalbi (Grilled Beef Rib Soup).

This is definitely one of the best food I have eaten in Korea. The soup was tasty but not too rich, the meat was succulent and the portion was huge. Even the side dishes were delicious. Highly recommended.

 

Yongin Korean Folk Village.

Next stop: Yongin Korean Folk Village.

It is also the filming sites for many Korean dramas.

Rich cultural vibe with lots of open space for a relaxed atmosphere. Lots of Korean traditional lanterns hanging from tree branches with red signifying heaven and blue signifying earth. Together, they signify balance.

The different types of traditional rooftops for the housing. The tiles were used by the rich ministers and farmers, the straw was used by the commoners. And the one on the far left was used by people who lived in the forest.

Came across a traditional rice mill.

A typical traditional farmer house.

Beautiful naturally dyed cloth decorations.

Rich people’s houses. Distinctively different from the previous farmer’s house.

External cooking facility for food with strong smell. At the backdrop is the traditional jars to store the sauces. This scene is always bound to appear in traditional Korean dramas.

We also got to experience the Ondol heating system of the Korean traditional housing. With its unique floor heating system, it keeps the floor warm without drying the air.

Next: Prosecutor’s Office where we got to see the past sentences like rod caning. We also visited the prison to see what it was like.

Traditional performances were also conducted that day and we caught the wonderful traditional dance and rope walking performance.

To depict the traditional livelihoods of the people, there are also stalls with skilled owners making the cutting tools and selling them on the spot.

People’s traditional belief were also depicted through the tree god and the protector statues of the village, believed to be able to protect the village and ward off evil.

A traditional criminal suspect announcement.

Even the souvenir shop and convenience shop situated within the folk village were constructed with the same traditional feel and touch.

Tour information : Click below

Hwaseong Fortress+Korean Folk Village Tour.

DMZ tour, an experience like never before

Demilitarized Military Zone (DMZ)

If you are like me, hearing about DMZ makes you feel fearful and excited at the same time. Fearful for not knowing what to expect since you are will be visiting a war cease zone and excited for the same reason!

 

A brief introduction of the DMZ. After the Korea War ended in 1948, the 38th parallel north ­ a line that divides the Korea Peninsula roughly into half was drawn up and has existed as a de facto international border since. A buffer zone of about 2km at the northern and southern side of the 38th parallel north (a total of approximately 4km) was declared the DMZ, and there are restrictions on the number of military personnel and the type of weapons allowed in this area. It is the nearest place in South Korea that you can get to North Korea and vice versa. Basically, it is a zone of intense hostility and each side has stationed military to guard against potential aggression from the other side. On the southern side of the DMZ, only two villages exist. They are the Daeseong-dong (also written Tae Sung Dong) and Kijong-dong. Why do the people want to live at the DMZ zone you may ask, since they are lots of restrictions? There is a group of Koreans whose hometown used to be situated in the DMZ zone, and after the war ended, they requested to return to their homeland due to the sentimental value (Just like how Koreans return to their hometown during their major festivals like the Lunar New Year and Chuseok). Their request was granted by the government but there were a few restrictions-residents there need to be the direct descendants of people who owned the land before the 1950-53 Korean War, they can only work as farmers and they must adhere to the daily curfew of 10pm. An interesting note is that only organic farming is allowed in the villages of the DMZ. They grow organic crops like ginseng, apple etc. The ginseng that you have bought may have been grown from here too!

Due to security reasons when visiting the DMZ, it is recommended to follow a tour to make your life a lot easier. Follow me and my travels with VIP Travel to know more!

Catching a glimpse into North Korea ­ what will you see?
Everyone’s ready and excited for the DMZ tour!
Bus ride will take about 1 hour

First stop: Imjingak

Imjingak is the furthest point in South Korea that people can visit without undergoing any security checks. Its major must-see attraction is the Freedom Bridge, which was crossed by South Korean soldiers to return from North Korea after the armistice was signed.

On the barbed wire fence, you will see lots and lots of colorful messages penned and attached by South Koreans hoping for the reunification with North Korea. As Koreans value kinship and ancestral ties, South Koreans with friends or family members separated from them will come here to pen their messages and get closer to their loved ones in North Korea. It’s a heart wrenching sight.

You will also get to see a steam locomotive train being exhibited. It was serving the Gyeongui Railway Line before it got derailed by bombs during the Korean War and has been left at the DMZ since then. More than 1020 bullet shots and its bent wheels showed the cruel situation during the war.

Countless bullet holes

Rails and cross-ties that were left behind by the then functioning Gyeongui Railway Line were now used to provide a glimpse into the past. The names indicated on the cross-tie were the major stations of the then functioning Gyeongui Railway Line.

There is a small souvenir store at every attraction point for you to buy some souvenirs.

Second stop: 3rd Underground Tunnel

After the Korea War ended, the 38th parallel north was drawn up and an armistice treaty was signed to cease war. However, shockingly, 4 infiltration tunnels that were constructed to link North Korea to the capital in South Korea (Seoul) were subsequently discovered. The underground tunnels were constructed and were meant for North Korean soldiers to infiltrate the South Korea’s capital from different directions. Except for the 1st tunnel which is too small for tourists to visit, the 2nd, 3rd and 4th underground tunnels are open for tourists’ visit. We visited the 3rdUnderground Tunnel which is more popular.

 

Great weather and lots of tourist buses coming to the 3rd tunnel site
Statue at the 3rd tunnel location
DMZ movie theater

Before you explore the 3rd underground tunnel, you will be ushered into the DMZ movie theater situated right next to it. Over there, you will listen to an 8 minutes movie which explained about the 4 underground tunnels that were built by the North Korean soldiers to connect the North to the South for a sudden attack on all sides. 

After the movie, you will be brought into a museum where you will listen to the guide talk about North Korean spies and the location of the different tunnels.

After listening to the movie and visiting the museum, you would have gained a much better understanding of why the North Koreans dug the tunnels, how South Korea discovered the tunnel and how scary and dangerous it would have been for South Korea if they have not been discovered!

Only after this will you be led to walk through the 3rd Underground Tunnel. This 3rd tunnel was discovered by South Korea in 1978 and it measured 1,635m in length, 2m in width and 2m in height. It can move approximately 30,000 soldiers per hour! However, tourists can only get to walk through about 265m of the tunnel to get a glimpse and feel of it. To get to the underground tunnel, tourists must walk down a separate constructed pathway which is about 400m to bring you to the underground tunnel opening.

You must leave bags, cameras and handphones in the lockers before going down to the tunnel and you will need to wear a safety helmet. The height of the tunnel is quite low at some points and you will need to bend down slightly to walk through.

You will get to experience the cold hard tunnel, and you will walk through all the way to the location where the tunnel was initially discovered. Then you will turn around and walk back the same pathway.

It’s a unique experience that you won’t be able to do at any other places and you will be really amazed and shocked at how the North Korean soldiers could dug the underground tunnels of such capacity secretly! In fact, South Korea suspects that there are a few more underground tunnels present, just not yet discovered!

Third stop: Dorasan Observatory

Next, you will be brought to the Dorasan Observatory where you can catch a glimpse of North Korean villages through binoculars.

You may take a photo with Song Joong-Ki look alike at the Dorasan Observatory

Pathway to catch a glimpse into North Korea

North Korea land
looks busy. Or is it just a fake propaganda village?

This part of the village 

Heard that the mint colored buildings on the right are newly painted

After getting a view of North Korea, you may visit the souvenir shop which sells traditional Korean and DMZ items. In addition, you may also buy North Korea liquor and soybean chocolates made from DMZ area grown organic soybeans. 

Last stop: Dorasan Train Station

Dorasan Train Station is a railway station situated on the Gyeongui Line. It once connected North and South Korea and was restored and opened in 2002. In 2007, it was used to transport goods to and fro North and South Korea but railway operations were eventually ceased in 2008 due to some conflict between the two countries.