The Korea DMZ (demilitarized zone) splits the country in half and is located a few tens of kilometers north of Seoul. For my generation the Korean War is somewhat lost to history, obscured between World War II and more modern conflicts such as the Vietnam and Gulf Wars. Our only context is faint childhood memories of watching MASH. As a result, I was pretty excited to learn more through this experience.
Team Andrews represented six of the seven people in our tour group, so it was essentially a private tour. We drove out of the city and north for a short ways and arrived at the western end of the DMZ. This is one of the most heavily fortified borders on the planet so we transferred from our van to a sanctioned bus that took us into the DMZ and were sternly told to avoid taking pictures or video of soldiers. We were boarded by a South Korean soldier and had to show our passports at the guarded crossing.
Once in the DMZ we were ferried up to a hill and had a short walk to the viewing center. On that day there were at least 100 new South Korean soldiers touring the facility as part of orientation for their obligatory 18 months of service. As you can see from this video, it was hard to avoid taking picture of them, and ultimately the girls ended up in a great group shot.
After the viewing center we moved down the hill and explored one of the many tunnels dug by North Korea to infiltrate the South. Four were discovered and this particular one was turned into an exhibit. It required donning hard hats and descending 100 meters underground then a trek through a crowded and wet rock shaft – it was good adventure! Unfortunately pictures weren’t allowed in the tunnel. We also watched a short documentary on the conflict between the two countries and how the tunnels played a role in their history. I captured some of it in the video below and expect only the most hardy video watcher to get to the end of this one.
Our final stop was the recently (re)built train station in the DMZ. The South Korean government built this hoping to open a train line through North Korea so that they have overland transport to China and ultimately the west. Our tour guide seemed optimistic that reunification would happen soon. Ann was waiting to catch her train to Pyongyang…