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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Bring your passport for the tour because South Korean soldiers manually check it before entering the heavily guarded zone.
- Always follow instructions from your guide.
- 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