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The De-Miltarized Zone

A Day At the DMZ 

My feelings upon standing on the platform peering across the DMZ (De-Militarized Zone) were:

  • ones of amazement that in this day and age division and borders, can still be so stark and impenetrable
  • sadness, families separated; and coming from the bright lights of Seoul and staring into the darkness of North Korea, and thinking of the sheer poverty existing out there
  • actually sitting in a bit of live history. Surely this 5 mile stretch of land (by the way its one of the most undisturbed ecosystems in the world as it has been untouched since 1953!) will soon disappear….like the Berlin Wall?
  • The visible oddities:
    • Inordinately high flagpoles to out do the other side
    • You can see the Kaesong Industrial Area in the DMZ – a project from a time of goodwill to allow North Koreans trade, money and income from South Korean factories that all travel to daily. At times of tension it gets closed down
    • The shiny Dorasan Station complete with platforms, signs – all ready to dispatch trains to Pyongyang, North Korea. It just needs to have a train!

One Wonders : How does this end?

I visited the station waiting for a train.  It has been a couple of generations wait already.  The bridge to North Korea (complete with messages which reminded me of New York after 9/11).  Saw the United Nations Joint Security Area buildings, and the Dora Observatory.  However, the most impactful part was the trip into one of the Infiltration Tunnels, or as the South Koreans call it, ‘The Third Tunnel of Aggression’.

Infiltration Tunnels

Built by North Korea with a view to invasion or spying in the Seventies  (there are 4 tunnels in all, the last one found in 1990). You can go underground in the tunnel, north under the DMZ, in a small miners style train. 

I am pleased I did it but I will never go again as I had not realized how claustrophobic I was!  You can actually see the mid tunnel door leading to North Korea. Journeying back the 27 miles to another world (that’s Seoul!) the experience all becomes quite surreal.  Does this worlds securest, most militarized border, really exist in parallel and proximity to one of the worlds most modern cities?

Note:  It is easy to do a day visit to the DMZ from Seoul.  You can take a guided tour by mini bus or even take the daily KoRail DMZ train.

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