On Tuesday me and Britta went to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and the Joint Security Area (JSA). It was a fascinating trip. Lot’s of information. Intense. And in places quite beautiful. We took pictures but I (Bodey) am not the best so we’re a bit lacking
on that front :P First, people normally don’t understand the difference between the DMZ and the JSA:
- The DMZ is an area around the border of North and South Korea. When they signed the ceasefire (technically the two countries are still at war) they made a border between the two countries. To minimise conflict there is a 2km region on each side that the majority of troops must stay behind. There are agreements in place for how many troops and a number of villages inside the region.
- The JSA is the is the only area in the DMZ where soldiers from the north and south meet. Soldiers stand facing each other and they still hold diplomatic meetings. When going there, the scene is eerily silent and tense. The JSA or as it’s often called, Panmunjom, is well worth the visit and what most people want to see on their tour.
To my horror, the tour actually requires some planning. Unsurprisingly, there are military checkpoints so you need to bring along your passport. We wanted to go to the JSA so that also requires sending a copy of our passports three days earlier. This waiting time can vary by country. I hear Koreans can go, but the waiting time is huge and their family history is checked. The next stumbling block: it was a 7:10 start! That’s earlier than either of us had woken up in a while. Worth it, but still an effort. We really should have bought that coffee and a few snacks that we talked about. The bus goes to a few other hotels along the way so your starting time could vary. After we got on our way, we went along to our attractions:
- First we ended up near some theme park with giant rock statues. We didn’t look at either but I wanted to. Nearby was a pretty lake, our first look at North Korea and an observation point. I didn’t get enough time here :’(
- Soon after this was a brief presentation on the history of the area. This was unintentionally amusing due to it’s nationalism but still informative.
- Next up we went to one of the tunnels North Korea dug to try to invade the south. This was pretty cool but involves a bit of walking. They’ve only found four of these but they think there may be up to twenty.
- We then went to an observatory. Here you can use the binoculars to see a statue of one of the great leaders, the great flag pole race and the surrounding area, including Kaesong.
- The last stop is the JSA. There are a few sites you get to see in this area but by far the most interesting is the Military Armistice Commission (MAC) Conference Room. This is where north and south meet. The feeling here is crazy! Just immobile soldiers staring at each other between old buildings mounted with sophisticated equipment. You never end up further into North Korea than a few meters. You can do tours to North Korea from China but they’re a bit more expensive. Something to try next ^^