Visit to the Border
Pan Mun Jom Travel Blog› entry 2 of 54 › view all entries
Our first full day in South Korea happened to be the only day that we could find a tour to the border with available seats. We booked the tour before we left home and got up really early to head to the Lotte Hotel and check in for our tour. On the way we got our first real taste of Seoul, with all the buildings and people heading to work, and also with the food. As we got out of the subway, we stopped at a street vendor selling egg sandwiches and gimbap, which is a sort of Korean sushi roll with no meat inside. The food was cheap and really hit the spot!
These tours to Panmunjom and the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) are not cheap, but going to the North/South Korea border was something we really wanted to do.
We then proceeded to nearby Dora Observatory, a lookout point over a region of the DMZ and into North Korea. We couldn't take any pictures of this area, but the image is burned into my mind of endless fencing, a hazy North Korea in the distance, a very eerie stillness, and an enormous South Korean flag - and an even larger North Korean flag overshadowing the area! In North Korea we could also see a propaganda village, which is a ghost town that exists only to spout nonsense to anyone close enough to hear it.
Our tour continued to the Third Tunnel, which, as the name implies, is the third of four tunnels discovered under South Korean soil. The tunnels were not created by South Koreans, however, they were dug by the North Korean army in an attempt to reach the capital city of Seoul undetected. The Third Tunnel is big enough for soldiers and tanks to travel through, an army that, if successful, would have appeared out of nowhere just outside the South Korean capital, which is only some 50km from the border. Fortunately, these four tunnels were discovered before the North Koreans had a chance to use them. Inside the tunnels, North Koreans diggers make it to appear that they were mining coal by the location of dynamite blasts and also by rubbing coal on the walls.
After a Korean lunch of hotpot with all kinds of meats and vegetables, a group of us from the tour broke off and headed to the Joint Security Area (JSA) inside the DMZ. Once we had passed through all the security checkpoints, we boarded a bus that took us into the facility. It was there that we watch an informational video on the site and learned about events like the Axe Massacre and other conflicts that have happened over the years. We then went down to the border itself and entered one of the conference rooms that exist in both countries. Therefore, by walking to the far half of the room, you are actually across the border and standing in North Korea.
That was the last stop on our tour, and after the adventure at the border we headed back to Seoul. The tour exceeded my expectations, it could have been better but it was well worth the money to go. It was a really neat experience and helped me to better understand the culture and the history there. It's something that should not be missed on a trip to Korea!