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
Just insert 500won coin into the binoculars to activate the view
North Korea land
This part of the village looks busy. Or is it just a fake propaganda 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.
North Korea liquor
North Korea liquor alcohol level: 17.5%
DMZ soybean chocolates
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.