Here is special tour showing Korean tragic history.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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 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.
Tunnel 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 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 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.