Borderline

Seoul Travel Blog

 › entry 77 of 80 › view all entries
The DMZ visitor centre

Despite all the culture and attractions of Seoul the one thing you must do when in south Korea is visit the DMZ that runs across the penisular separating the south from the north.

We have followed the recomendation of the Rough Guide and have booked a trip to the DMZ through the USO - the tourist wing of the US Army.  This tour has the beauty of visiting the JSA - the area in the middle of the DMZ where soldiers from both sides patrol a special compound where the "talks" between the two nations still take place.  There are some special security restrictions for access to the JSA so many DMZ tours omit this - we have heard it is a must do.

The day starts off tamely with a visit to a museum and the 3rd tunnel where strangely you are not permitted to take photos.

Graphic of the 3rd tunnel
  After  there we head on to a viewpoint over the DMZ where you are not permitted to photograph into North Korea and then to the new railway station where there is a platform for trains to Pyongyang but only trains heading south to Seoul.

It's now that the tour gets serious when we arrive at Camp Bonitas and are passed over to US Army control.  We have a briefing are are then required to sign a liability waiver for whatever might happen in the DMZ.  Afterwards we are bused through the DMZ to the JSA.  The JSA is a very very odd, and I am sure, unique place.  Here both North and South Korean soldiers face off across an open area about 100 yds wide.  Both sides have a large building but exactly in the middle of the DMZ are buildings built to hold meetings between  the 2 sides.

Viewpoint to North Korea
  There are 5r buildings, 3 under south control and painted blue the other 2 under control of  the north and painted white. 

Accompanied by armed soldiers we are pemitted to enter the central building which has been used for many of the peace negotiations.  Inside, by walking to the north half of the building we are actually walking into North Korea.  All the time we are surrounded by armed guards.  The South Korean soldiers are all black-belt martial arts experts, wear mirror shades and stand impassive.   The whole experience is very surreal but also incredibly intense - this is all very real and one of  the very few active war zones in the world and I am sure the only one you can visit as a tourist.

Afterwards, as we stand looking over to the North Korean guards, our US guides answer questions.

The platform to the north
  In response the north soldiers stand and observe us through binoculars.   We return to Camp Bonitas via the infamous "Bridge of No Return" where the POWs after the Korean War were exchanged knowing that they would never be able to return.

Back in the camp we are able to buy souveniers.  I buy a fridge magnet and hankerchief, tacky but where else can you get this stuff?  After that it is all a bit of an anti-climax as we work our way back to Seoul but what a day!

Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
The DMZ visitor centre
The DMZ visitor centre
Graphic of the 3rd tunnel
Graphic of the 3rd tunnel
Viewpoint to North Korea
Viewpoint to North Korea
The platform to the north
The platform to the north
Our JAC guides and guards
Our JAC guides and guards
Julie and South Korean guard.  The…
Julie and South Korean guard. Th…
Looking across to the North Korean…
Looking across to the North Korea…
Seoul
photo by: chiyeh