Seeing North Korea has always been a fantasy of mine. I know, I know. There’s nothing much to see there, but come on, how many people do you know have actually seen North Korea? Good thing my friend also shares the same sentiments, so we booked ourselves a tour to the DMZ on our second day. We originally wanted to get the DMZ and JSA tour, but time constraints wouldn’t allow us to do so.
The DMZ, or the Demilitarized Zone, serves as the border between North and South Korea. It runs for 250 kilometers from east to west, effectively cutting the Korean peninsula in half.
The tour from Seoul started at a place called Imjingak, where Sharon, our guide, bought our tickets for DMZ. Imjingak is a park of some sort, complete with carnival rides and stores. From what Sharon told us, the South Korean government built the park to appease the Koreans who are not able to return to their houses in North Korea due to the war, or who have family and friends left in North Korea.
After buying the tickets, we proceeded to the third infiltration tunnel within the DMZ itself. We had to pass through a security checkpoint though, so soldiers boarded our bus and we had to show them our passports.
Throughout the years, North Korea had been digging up tunnels underneath the DMZ with the goal to reach the South Korean capital. They’ve found 4 tunnels already, and there is speculation that there are others left undiscovered.
A warning to those that plan on going there — the tunnel is not for the claustrophobic. I got a bit claustrophobic myself. Hahaha. I was fine throughout the whole walk going down, but once we got down there, everything sort of became tighter. It was wet, cold, and dark down there, so I ended up leaving the tunnel early. I didn’t go to the very end anymore. Also, the walk down was fine, but the walk up was very tiring. Imagine walking up for about 400 meters on an incline of almost 45 degrees. There you go.
There was also a museum on the other side of where the tunnel is located, showing the history of the Korean War and the incidents that have happened in the DMZ area. We also spent about 10 minutes watching a documentary on the tunnels that the North Koreans dug underneath the DMZ.
The Dora Observatory was my favorite destination of this tour. I finally got to see North Korea! The observatory has binoculars that you can put coins in, to see beyond the actual border between North and South Korea. I got to see the North Korean flag flying on top of the pole, with other buildings in the area. Sharon said that some of the buildings there were made to look like they were inhabited, but in reality, there were no people living there.
We also passed by the Dorasan Station, the last station in South Korea before reaching North Korea.
I absolutely loved this tour, and this is largely because our guide, Sharon, was very knowledgeable about the area. I wish we really had gone to the JSA though, but then I can always go there next time I’m in South Korea. 🙂