September 26, 2012

South Korea : DMZ and the 3rd Tunnel

Continuation from here ...

So after lunch we started touring around DMZ.

DMZ or Demilitarized Zone is a strip of land that serves as a buffer zone between North and South Korea, and is the most heavily militarized border in the world. Totaling to 250km along the 38th parallel north, the buffer zone is approximately 4km wide; 2km on the South side and another 2km on the North side of the Military Demarcation Line. 

There are numerous cases of incidents and incursions by the North Koreans to its neighbor since the demarcation. Among them are the discovery of four infiltration tunnels under the DMZ area. Although the North Korean government denied their involvement in those attempt of incursions, proofs show otherwise. The orientation of the blasting lines within each tunnel are all heading to the south side. They claimed the tunnels were for coal mining; but no coal has been found in the area.

From the four tunnels, only the 3rd tunnel is opened to visitors. Discovered in 1978, the tunnel is only 44km from Seoul. Judging by the size of the tunnel, it can easily accommodate an entire infantry division per hour along with light weaponry. Definitely designed for a surprise attack on Seoul.

Donning our hardhats, we went down to the tunnel by tram.

Photography is forbidden within the tunnel so I could only take picture of the entrance.

Inside there, we could see parts of the tunnel were painted black, to give the appearance of coal. We walked until the end, where concrete barricades were made by the South Korean to block the tunnel at the actual MDL. According to my tour guide, there are three barricades altogether.

There is a park nearby, Imjingak.

The park has many statues and monuments regarding the Korean War. Built in 1972, it is to console those from both sides who are unable to return to their hometowns, friends and families as a result of the division, together with the hope that someday unification would be possible.

Korean Peace Bell

This is Freedom Bridge.

It is called so when more than 12,000 prisoners of war returned to South Korea through this bridge during a prisoner exchange.

You cannot actually get close to the bridge as there is a large gate and barbed wire preventing access to it.

There are numerous messages written on the gate by the displaced families, hoping that one day they will be reunited with their loved ones. It was heartbreaking seeing all those messages cos we all know it sucks to be separated with the people you love.

We then went to Dora Observatory. Located on top of Mount Dora, you can look across the Demilitarized Zone.

You will be able to see the JSA and the North Korean and South Korean sides of the DMZ through binoculars from the observatory. Interestingly, after Seoul put up a South Korean flag, the North put up theirs, and made sure it is larger and taller. Talk about competition. heh...

You can also see factories on the north side built by south side companies. They wanted to do manufacturing in lower income country and had a special agreement with the north to construct these factories. The workers are paid a pretty high salary there. Pretty weird relationship, isn't it? I thought these two countries cut all ties and do not have anything to do with each other.

Too bad we couldn't take pictures from there. Photography are only allowed from fifteen feet behind a yellow line, but I guess it's impossible to get a good shot, especially with my amateur camera.

 Next, we were brought to visit Dorasan Station.

It is the last railway station in South Korea from the DMZ. The station drew worldwide attention when United States President Bush visited in 2002. 

"May this railroad unite Korean families".

When the Trans-Korea Railway, the Trans-Siberia Railway, and the Trans-China Railway are connected in the future, this station promises to emerge as the starting point of the transcontinental railroad. We would be able to travel from Seoul to London via land. Now that would be an amazing journey!

Signs are up showing future destination. Pyeongyang, here I come!

Our final stop was the Unification Village. It is the northern area of the Civilian Control Line and only has 133 families and a total of 493 residents, who are mostly farmers. The people here live under 24 hour military surveillance and get special government benefits for living in the most dangerous place in Korea like tax and military exemption. 

Sounds like a good deal? You can't simply live here though. The only way someone can reside here is if they are born or married into the village. 

We get to check out their market, mostly selling local farm produce. 

Finally, it's time go back to the city.

Going to the DMZ and JSA/Panmunjeom was really an incredible experience for me. The whole trip was interesting considering it is the only place in the world where we can see an actual DMZ. Though I have to honestly admit that it is becoming more of a tourist attraction than anything else.


Maharani said...

wah!! bestttttt!! teringin sangat nak p north korea. hehehe... DMZ pun jadi la.

rara said...

tom: tu la.. nak pegi North Korea tu macam susah sangat.. so dapat tengok glimpse through DMZ pon jadi la..

BibiErr Karim said...

Planning for my trip to South Korea. Hihi reason to repeat sbb aritu xsempat jejak DMZ. And nak try g Hello Kitty cafe too. Ur entries mmg 1 of my ref. Tqsm for sharing.

rara said...

BibiErr: bila nak pegi? best nya! i pon hope can repeat it soon. no problem.. sharing is caring. :D

BibiErr Karim said...

June!!! 6 months to go, planning bagai nak rak. Just because I'm going with my girlfriends so kena plan slowly. U shud repeat cepat2. Insya Allah. Hihi.

edaydone said...

Akhirnya!! At Last!! Jumpa info JSA & DMZ...tq

rara said...

@edaydone: Planning a trip soon ke? Enjoy ur trip! :)