Visit to the Border

Pan Mun Jom Travel Blog

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Dorasan Station

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.

Entrance to the Third Tunnel
  We just hoped that it was worth it!  The 40ish seat tour bus was pretty much full as we pulled out of the parking lot and headed to parts unknown to us.  The first stop was not a military outpost but Dorasan Station, a train station in South Korea close to the border.  It was built by the South Koreans in hope that some day trains would be passing from Seoul through this station onto North Korea and to the rest of Eurasia.  I couldn't help but smile at this possibility.

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.

Hope for the future - pushing the two Koreas back together

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.

Inside a Camp Bonifas conference room on the border
  There may be more tunnels still hidden under South Korean soil, no one knows for sure.

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.

North Korea up ahead
  There is a South Korean guard positioned at the door on this side of the building to stop anyone from going out the wrong door, I can only assume.  On the particular day we were there, tensions were high between the two Koreas and we were only allowed to stay a few minutes before being hurried back out of the area.  We found out later that some North Koreans had tried to defect there, and North Korea was not happy about it.

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!

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Dorasan Station
Dorasan Station
Entrance to the Third Tunnel
Entrance to the Third Tunnel
Hope for the future - pushing the …
Hope for the future - pushing the…
Inside a Camp Bonifas conference r…
Inside a Camp Bonifas conference …
North Korea up ahead
North Korea up ahead
Dorasan Station
Dorasan Station
Dorasan Station
Dorasan Station
Dorasan Station
Dorasan Station
Dorasan Station
Dorasan Station
Dorasan Station
Dorasan Station
Dorasan Station
Dorasan Station
Dorasan Observatory
Dorasan Observatory
My wife getting ready to head into…
My wife getting ready to head int…
At the Third Tunnel
At the Third Tunnel
Hope for the future - pushing the …
Hope for the future - pushing the…
DMZ
DMZ
A bell at the DMZ
A bell at the DMZ
Prayers
Prayers
Inside Camp Bonifas, in a room tha…
Inside Camp Bonifas, in a room th…
The North Korea/South Korea border…
The North Korea/South Korea borde…
The North Korea/South Korea border
The North Korea/South Korea border
A quick glimpse of North Korea
A quick glimpse of North Korea
North Korea up ahead
North Korea up ahead
The site of the Ax Murder Inciden…
The site of the "Ax Murder Incide…
A bridge to North Korea
A bridge to North Korea
Looking back into South Korea
Looking back into South Korea
Pan Mun Jom
photo by: Nzelvis