A trip up North

Sorry for my slacker blog style right now. I'm still doing posts about Dan's parent's visit 2 months ago! But here is a post you don't want to miss. We took a trip up to the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) which is at the border of North and South Korea. No kids under 12 were allowed so we left them with a good, and obviously patient, friend for almost the whole day.

The tour was sponsored by the USO, so we met there and took a 45 minute drive north on buses. We were briefed in a conference room/lecture hall and signed our lives away. From the very beginning the tour was extremely structured and they were seriously serious about you not breaking any rules. You had to wear your tag on the left collar, don't point or wave at anything/anyone, no pictures in certain places, walk in single file lines, don't cross this line, etc.

After the 20 minute briefing, given entirely by memory, we went over to our first destination. I'm sorry, i'm terrible with remember names, so the name of this building escapes me, but this is where meetings between the countries take place. The Korean soldiers take their job here very seriously and make a huge sacrifice serving up at the DMZ.

These blue buildings straddle the border and it is here and only here that North Koreans and South Koreans meet.

This is a picture of a North Korean Soldier

This is a picture of him looking back at us.

Apparently they only come out during the tours. Not sure what they're looking for. Creepy thing was that we were standing in a horizontal line and i moved from one end to the other. When I got to the other end I couldn't see the North Korean Soldier any more. A few seconds later he moved back into my view and pulled up his binoculars again. Maybe he just thought I was cute. ;)

Here is a physical border outside between the buildings.

You'll notice these soldiers strategically placed outside the buildings. They stand so they can still see the other side's movements, but can quickly take cover if needed. They are also armed and do not move.

Here is his lookout, there to relieve him if necessary and to act as a second set of eyes.

This is the inside of the blue buildings. We all filled up the small room and the tour guide told us that these markers on the table act as the border between the countries, so half of us were in North Korea and the other half in South Korea. We had a few minutes to take pictures and put ourselves in North Korea before being ushered out.

Here we are in North Korea.

A view of the soldier from inside the building

A statue of grasped hands, symbolizing a unified Korea

Kijongdong- Propaganda village. World 3rd tallest flag pole flying a whopping 600 pound North Korean flag. All of these buildings are empty and floorless. All day long they would pump propaganda through the speaker system and give illusion that people were living there. When these were built they were meant to look modern and desirable, and make the South Koreans think the North Koreans were living the fine life.

These are the posts you find along the 38th parallel/border between North and South.

Copy of armistice signed between North and South Korea, not a peace treaty.

Bridge of no return- Both North and South Koreans were given a chance to choose which Korea they would live in, with no chance to return to the other.

There have been several incidents since the armistice of North Korea instigating attacks on South Korea. A famous one is call the Axe Murder incident. The link will tell you the whole story, but basically the SKoreans were just trimming a tree and NKoreans crossed the border and began attacking them. The SKoreans were extremely outnumbered and it was a gruesome ordeal.

These hats belonged to Captain Bonafas and Lt Barrett who were slain in the Axe Murder incident.

The tree that was innocently being removed which spawned the brutal attack.

Barbed wire from along the border.

One of the stops had a little museum that we had only 10 minutes to breeze through.

TIMEOUT: There's a section of the tour that was probably my favorite, but we weren't allowed to take any pictures. There are several tunnels between north and south korea that have been discovered. The latest one was found in the 90s which really isn't that long ago. They've uncovered 4 and believe there to be many more. By the pattern of dig strokes and other such evidence, the tunnels were obviously dug by North Koreans to infiltrate South Korea. You can find more information here. We were able to go down (and I mean down) into one of the tunnels. It was just neat to be in there and think of what could have been and what might happen somewhere else. Several thousands of troops could make their way into South Korea very quickly and easily if there are truly tunnels that haven't been discovered yet. Eerie.

Here we were allowed to look through the binoculars to see into North Korea.

See that yellow line? That's where you could take pictures from. That basically meant you could get any quality pictures unless you had a high powered camera.

The last stop was at Dorasan Station. This is as far north as you can get by train at this time. It used to connect into North Korea but other 'incidents' occured causing the trains to stop running between both countries. I'm pretty sure the trains only recently were suspended, in the 90s.

Inside the station they have a map of all the trans eurasian railways. It's just amazing how 'trapped' the South Koreans are, when they are so close to being connected to other countries.

On our way out of the train station I saw this road sign that just summed up the eeriness of the whole tour. The only way you could go from there was Seoul, it's your only option. Both countries dream of a unified Korea, but their definitions of unified differ extremely. The North Koreans are suffering at the cost of their leader. Millions are starving and dying. All manner of trials devastate the land, yet they blame the United States for it all. I wonder how it will all pan out, and I just hope it doesn't while I'm so close!


Valerie@Occasionally Crafty said...

Thanks for the info. This was really interesting!

Bethany Thompson said...

i've loved looking through your blog... we visited Korea last summer and loved it... and all your adventures make me miss it a little... my husbands stepfather is a chaplain for the army. (they are now on their way to hawaii) i found the dmz to be a little creepy but very interesting! thanks for sharing! (i blog hopped from kristinas blog)

Kierst said...

Wow! What a cool and scary experience!

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