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The armistice that put a halt to the Korean War (1950-1953) divided the Korean Peninsula into South and North Korea. The two sides are separated by the Korean Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, running along the 38th parallel north. In accordance with the ceasefire, the DMZ serves as a buffer zone between South and North Korea to prevent direct military collisions. It spans between the Southern and Northern limit lines. The Southern Limit Line extends from Imjingang River in the west to Dongho-ri in the east. From the Military Demarcation Line, the South and the North created a buffer zone of two kilometers on each side. Because of the high risk of military conflicts in the area, a phase line was established to control civilian access. Such restrictions, which have been in place for the last fifty years, have helped the ecological resources in the area to remain in an untouched state. As a result, the DMZ is also a unique natural ecosystem, one that is globally acknowledged for its ecological value.
Dorasan Station is the northernmost station of the South Korea which is 700m distant from the southern boundary line of DMZ, the civil control zone. Since US president Bush visited Dorasan Station on February 20, 2002, it has come into spotlight internationally. imjingak Station was opened in October 2001, and then Dorasan Station, the unfinished station of the north-south Korean reconciliation was opened on February 12, 2002 (the lunar New Year's Day) through the special Mangbae train operation in 52 years after the railroad service was stopped. The milestones of Dorasan Station (205km to Pyeongyang, 56km to Seoul) imply the reality of the division between two Koreans and a future hope and expectation. Because Dorasan Station is the northernmost station of the South Korea in the southern boundary line, Dorasan Station will play the role of customs and entry for Chinese and Russian people and goods as well as the North Koreans if Gyeongui Line Railroad connection is completed and the traffic is possible between two Koreans. Also, Dorasan Station contains the historical meaning as a symbolic place of the division between two Koreans and a gateway of the south-north exchange.
Dora Observatory is on the South Korean side of the 38th parallel. Situated on top of Dorasan, the observatory looks across the Demilitarized Zone. It is the part of South Korea closest to the North. Visitors can catch a rare glimpse of the reclusive North Korean state through binoculars from the 304 square feet, 500-person capacity observatory. They will be able to see the North Korean propaganda village situated in the DMZ, a remnant of the old prosperity of the North, and can see as far as the city of Gaesung which is the 3rd largest city(population about 310,000) in North and if the weather is clear, bronze statue of Kim Il-sung, former leader of North Korea, can be seen. An estimated number of his statue in the whole country of the north is about more than 25,000 and North Koreans pay their respects to the statue.
The observatory is very close to the Third Tunnel (Third North Korean Infiltration Tunnel), a massive North Korean-dug tunnel which was planned as a pathway for invasion to the South if war had erupted and it had not been discovered. The Dorasan Station, also nearby, is designed to be the station that connects the railroads of the South and North one day in the future.
See the DMZ check points of North Korea, small villages nearby and even Gaeseong Special City from the Dora Observatory. It is the farthest area accessible by South Korean civilians and one of the most popular attractions for foreign tourists. Since the observatory is in the military zone near North Korea, visitors must sign up for the DMZ Tour Program to visit the observatory. Foreigners must carry their passports to participate in the program.
The third tunnel was discovered in October 1978, which is only 12km from Munsan and 52 km from Seoul. The 1.635 meters-long tunnel with 2 meters high and 2 meters wide is capable of moving a full division per hour. It is evidently designed for an invasion of the south. North Korea insisted that it was designed for a surprise attack on the north by South Korea when it was found out. But it was proved that North Korean’s insistence is untrue because traces of blasting inside tunnel were going to the south.