Not really, that would be suicide. Worse than suicide, actually. I’m not built for hard labor and goodness knows I don’t have any political hook-ups like Bill Clinton to fight for my release. However, while few civilians, Korean or otherwise, are allowed within the DMZ, we were able to take a walk about 75 meters deep underground right up to the border. And at the risk of sounding completely lame…it was cool. One of those “oh my God, I’m living a huge part of history right now” moments.
Let me explain. This past Sunday, we took a (guided) tour of the DMZ. For those not aware, the DMZ (demilitarized zone) is the border between the North and South, plus an additional 2 km on either side. Very few people are allowed within the DMZ, only military professionals, those who live and work within the area, and tour groups. Our group contained about sixty foreigners and was put together through a group called Adventure Korea. They put on DMZ tours about once a month and if you are in Korea reading this blog and you haven’t taken the tour yet - Do it. Go to the website and sign up for the next one right now. There were four main stops on the tour so I will let my pictures tell the story.
The first stop was Imjingak. This is as far as civilians can go to the North by themselves without permission. Imjingak was built to console those who had to leave their homes in the North. Here we saw the freedom bridge.
It’s right there…
The Freedom Bridge was used to exchange prisoners after the Korean War. We were able to walk out where they have small memorial for those who have family members that were left behind.
Then we had lunch.
Our next stop was the third tunnel. After the peace treaty was signed in 1952, the South discovered three underground tunnels the North had built as part of a planned military invasion.
Here we watched a short video detailing the history of tension between the two countries and toured a museum of war artifacts. Afterwards, we walked 300 meters down a steep incline to the underground border. (This was was immediately followed by a 300 meter walk/run up a steep incline.) The tunnel is about six feet high and six feet wide, but goes 72 meters (similar to a 25 story building) underground. We weren’t allowed to take pictures within the tunnel but it was probably one of the neatest parts for me.
The end of the tunnel is closed off minus a small hole in the wall where you can see through to the Northern side. They have the same thing, a concrete barrier with a few holes cut out to see us as well. Between the two sides lighting and cameras are set up focused towards the North. It is also filled with dynamite. Should the North be caught trying invade the South through this tunnel, the dynamite will be set off immediately.
Jason, Lily, myself, Madelein, and Marisol…after the 300 meter uphill run. No bueno.
I will write a second entry for the next two stops. Too many cool things, not enough time to write about it.