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DMZ tour made me feel that I am living in a divided country (Imjingak/ 3rd Tunnel/Dorasan Station & Observatory)

May 27, 2019

 ※ You want to see this article in Korean? Click here.

 

Trip to April 2018

The place I wanted to go was JSA Panmunjom. However, unless Koreans were registered as a group and visited as a group, there was no way to visit the JSA as an individual. So I joined DMZ tour. The DMZ tour was the closest place to visit the Demilitarized Zone (Except the truce village of Panmunjom) as a civilian. This was the DMZ tour which was the biggest event and interest for my family trip.

 

 

 

 

You can apply for the DMZ tour in several ways. I joined DMZ tour through a local travel agency a day before. My family took ID card and waited at the pick-up place that the travel agency told us. When I checked the products of various travel agencies, the DMZ tour usually had similar schedules. The most visited course was Imjingak theme park - Dora Observatory - Third Tunnel - Dorasan Station Course. Inside the course, it is of course to go through the Unification. 

 

★ Paju City is providing information on the DMZ tour. Click here and you can go to Paju City's official website for tourism and culture.

 

 

1. Imjingak Peace Nuri Park 

It took about an hour to get to Imjingak Peace Nuri Park from the Seoul City Center. Imjingak Peace Nuri Park was bigger and wider than I expected. There were various facilities, and surprisingly, there was a small amusement park.

At the Peace Nuri Park, where Mangbaedan is located, a sad visit is made every year by displaced people. However, without forgetting this pain, the Republic of Korea wants to move toward a peaceful world. So the Ministry of Government Administration of the Republic of Korea named Imjingak "Peace Nuri Park." This place has become a place where the scars of war and the touch of peace coexist long ago. There were more things to see here than I thought. Therefore, if you visit here, it would be okay to spend a day at Imjingak Peace Nuri Park.

 

*Mangbaedan: This is a place where displaced people who live in the South after leaving their hometowns in North Korea bowing to their hometowns every year.

 

 

 

 (1) Imjingak Steam locomotive

The steam locomotive, which was punctured by the actual bullet, brought back the scars of the war. Trains were installed near Jangdan Station in the DMZ, using discarded rails. This was because it means restoring the Gyeongui railway, which was operated by steam locomotive of Jangdan Station during the Korean War. Countless tourists took pictures here and looked at the traces of bullets. There were so many holes that I was embarrassed. I could see the horrors of war from old photographs. But a lot of bullets here were enough to know it without old pics.

 

 

 (2) Imjingak Whistle of Tomorrow

It was like a museum. It was a place where you could feel the reality of division on a long bridge. Photography is a little peculiarly forbidden here. For example, you can take pictures in the direction you see in the picture now. However, it is not possible to take pictures in the right or left direction based on this direction. This is because it is a civilian-controlled area, where foreigners who are not familiar with the situation sometimes looked embarrassed when they saw No Photography while taking pictures in the right or left direction.

- Admission fee: 2,000 won per adult.

- Service hours: 9:00 to 18:00 (March to October) / 9:00 to 17:00 (November to February)

 

 

 

If you walk here, you can see a small exhibition space with glass. The shell shown in the picture was actually used during the Korean War. They made the word DMZ.

 

 

Kindly marked by red circles and arrows were bullet marks during the Korean War. I had never experienced the Korean War, but this bullet marks seemed to make me realize that the war was still going on.

 

I was born and live in a divided country. Every time I travel abroad, many foreigners marvel at South Korea next to North Korea. And every time the news comes out that North Korea is conducting a nuclear test, foreigners living in South Korea sometimes get a phone call from their families saying they should come back soon. Foreigners who live in Korea are not worried about this. Because of a kind of familiarity. Koreans are not so surprised by the news. We are very calm. But seeing the bullet marks I saw in the DMZ and the truce line I saw in person, I realized that I was too much calm so far.

 

 

 2. Dora Observatory

The Dora Observatory is at the northernmost point of the Military Demarcation Line. I went through the Unification Bridge when I came here from Imjingak Peace Nuri Park. At the Tongil(=Unification) Bridge, soldiers inspected the visitors' identification cards. At that time, I was more surprised to see the Unification Bridge with my own eyes, which I had only seen on TV news. I just couldn't take a picture.

 

 

At the Dora Observatory, you can also see the Gaesong Industrial Complex and the village of Gijeong-dong, a North Korean propaganda village. The Dora Observatory is said to be a unification, security and tourism destination made by the government for 300 million won. It has been open to the public since January 1987. From here, you can see North Korea in close proximity through a telescope for 500 won per once.

 

▶ The easiest way to see the truce line and the demarcation line from the Dora Observatory

I recommend going to the viewing area in the observatory. There was a brief miniature map and buildings. In fact, what was more interesting than the map was stickers on a barrel of glass in the direction of North Korea. If you look at the stickers, you will see the Military Demarcation Line and the truce line, which is exactly where you sit in the first chair and look at the stickers from the inside space. Inside the sticker is the Demilitarized Zone in our area and outside the sticker is the Demilitarized Zone in North Korea.

 

 

 

For a one-time payment of 500 won, you can see North Korea closely through a telescope. Through this, I could see North Korean soldiers at the North Korean guard post, and the Gaesong Industrial complex. If the complex had been in operation so far, I might have seen trucks or people traveling to and from the complex here.

p.s. Some people could not find the complex even with a telescope. Since the telescope is a magnifying glass, it really needs to move slowly in its direction.

 

If you look without a telescope, it looks just like this. In the picture above, I recommend that you invest 500 won and look at it conveniently with a telescope.

 

 

 

 3. Third Tunnel

Third tunnel where internal shooting was not possible. There are ways to walk and ride monorail. I strongly recommend riding monorail. The distance from the ground to the tunnel is about 300 meters, and it is 600 meters if you go back and forth. The problem is that the slope is enormous...It is recommended to pay a little more for monorail rides unconditionally.

 

Before entering the third tunnel, I watched a short video and went directly into the tunnel. (This order may change.)

 

 

 

 

A safety helmet is essential when entering a tunnel. It's natural to wear a safety helmet if something is falling on your head or considering the worst. But to tell you the practical part... When you enter the third tunnel, water drops fall off. Wearing a safety helmet can prevent hair from getting wet from such drops of water.

 

in 3rd tunnel I couldn't film, so Let ma tell my experience...

According to the guide, the tunnel was especially narrow for Westerners because it was dug based on the size of North Korean soldiers. As the guide explained, it seemed really uncomfortable for large Westerners to walk through the tunnel. My mother and I are short (little height is convenient at this time). Haha) It was less uncomfortable than them, but not at all. As I walked through the tunnel, there was a tall Westerner in front of me. I walked in a tunnel based on him. If he walked with his head bent down, I could walk with my back straight, and if he leaned heavily, I had to bend my back a little too. ^^; (Some people should bend their backs more than half as they walk through this tunnel to walk.)

 

When the South Korean government first discovered the tunnel, the North said.

"The tunnel is a natural tunnel created by nature!"

The visitors who heard this story began to laugh. If you walk through this tunnel yourself, you can see how ridiculous the story is.

 

 

 

 4. Dorasan Station

The last course was Dorasan Station, the northernmost station in the civilian control area, Dorasan Station. It is said to be one of the railway stations linking Seoul to Shinuiju, but it cannot go to Shinuiju because it is not connected at the moment. Now, people cannot use this train station as a station for transportation. Instead, it serves as a railway station that carries the desire for unification.

 

 

 

It says, "For Pyongyang," but We can't go directly to Pyongyang.

 

 

 Dora-san Station Unification Platform Entry

For an admission fee of 1,000 won, you can enter the unification platform. This ticket looks like a train ticket, but you can't actually board the train here with this. However, you can go directly to the platform with this. My family received a commemorative admission ticket and paid one thousand won each.

 

 

What Mother Says Upon Entering the Unification Platform

"Oh, my God! This place is so well-made, but no one can even use it!"

It seemed like trains would pass here. It seemed no wonder that a train carrying many people and cargo would stop here and leave. It was rather strange that this place was empty. Is Alice in Wonderland feel this way?

 

In the platform, there was a military policeman guarding this place. Except for the fact, this place was no different from an ordinary train station.

 

"A long time ago, when the Gaesong Industrial Complex was run, freight trains used to come and go here."

It was a story I heard from an employee when I paid for a ticket to commemorate the unification platform of Dorasan Station.

 

 at Imjingak

What I felt during my DMZ tour was that so many foreigners were interested in the reality of division of my country. I conclude this article with the story of two people I met there.

 

Unification

There was a Singaporean who met on the DMZ tour. He asked me.

"You want unification?"

I have rightly thought that unification should be. I just don't know when it will be. In fact, I have never thought deeply about why unification should be. So to me, his question was harder than I thought. I told him many stories. I finally answered, "We were one," but it may not have been enough just to answer why unification should be achieved. He also asked this question to the guide.

 

 

the Freedom Bridge

I headed to Imjingak Freedom Bridge with my parents. At the end, countless Taegeukgi and earnest wishes were displayed everywhere. Someone has returned here through this bridge in search of freedom, but no longer is allowed to go through it. When I was looking around here with my family, A lady from Southeast Asia asked me (I didn't know her nationality because I didn't ask for it)

 

"I'm sorry, what is this place?“

There is a lot of flags hanging here, and she must have wondered why the flag looked old and left traces of people everywhere. I knew briefly what it was like here. I explained to her how the Prisons Of War (POW) could get here. I also told her that you might be able to go to North Korea, but because of the tragic history of division, South Koreans cannot go to the North. And I also informed her that although the displaced people's hometown is North Korea, they can't go on forever. There was a fact that she and myself, who heard my story, realized at the same time. It was the weight of the word for life. 

 

*the Freedom Bridge: At that time, 12,773 South Korean prisoners of war chose freedom, defying persistent persuasion from the North. In order to commemorate the first time they passed in search of freedom, the site was later named the Freedom Bridge. The bridge symbolizes the tragedy of the division of the two Koreas, along with the "Bridge of No Return" at the truce village of Panmunjom.

 

 

 DMZ Tour

It is not possible for an individual South Korean to visit the JSA Panmunjeom among the DMZ tours. If a South Korean can visit the truce village of Panmunjom, it must be an overseas national or a group of more than 20 people. Groups of 20 or more people can apply only for certain organizations, such as schools. If you are an individual Korean, there is no way to join. Therefore, other DMZ tours are possible except this one.

 

1. Types of DMZ tours

To be exact, this kind of trip is called "security tourism." Rather than simply calling it a DMZ tour, it is called a security tour, and the scope becomes a little wider.

 

① NLL security tour: This is a course that overlooks the NLL, and it features a direct view of North Korean civilian households from a close distance.

② Dorasan Security Tour (Third Tunnel): This is a course my parents and I have chosen, and the course begins at Imjingak. It is the nearest and most famous course from Seoul.

 Yeoncheon Security Tours: This course also includes the Hantan River (a volcanic activity area in the prehistoric era).

 Cheorwon Security Tour (Second Tunnel): It is a course that includes the White Horse Highlands and the Labour Office. There is the Labour building and there are still signs of fierce war during the war. The unique atmosphere of the building is also the setting for the music video of a famous Korean singer.

 

 

2. Which travel agency should I choose or go on a free trip?"

Free travel, as it says here, is not really about traveling alone. There must be a manager (or guide) from a certain section. However, the reason for the free travel is to distinguish whether to make a reservation through the travel agency or directly (KTX or Imjingak DMZ ticket office).

 

You can book a course called security tour through the travel agency. There is little difference between the courses offered by each travel agency. In addition, you don't have to go through travel agencies if you want a security tour that includes a third tunnel. If you can travel directly to Imjingak Peace Nuri Park, you can apply for a local tour there. There is a difference between a convenient travel to Paju by pick-up bua at Seoul or a train from downtown Seoul. And sometimes there may be a unique course run by a travel agency. Therefore, it is better to think and choose the course that suits you and decide whether to go through the travel agency or book it yourself.

 

At first, I chose a travel agency because I did not know that there were various options. On second thought now, it seems like the third tunnel didn't necessarily have to make reservations with the travel agencies in advance.

 

 

3. How to Book DMZ tour

(1) Operated by Korail

Korail operates the Peace Train DMZ Train as a travel package. The course operates the above mentioned 2,3 and 4 and each course has different fares and duration, so it is most accurate to check on the official website.

 

 The official DMZ Train website operated by KORAIL

 

(2) Other travel agencies

Costs vary widely and may vary depending on duration. Travel companies operate a package product that will tour the DMZ in the morning and tour Seoul in the afternoon. Therefore, it is better to choose what you want. Most travel agencies offer travel packages in English.

 

You can choose Dorasan security tour at Imjingak Pyeonghwa Nuri Park. But you must move from Imjingak to Seoul on their own. And you can choose the tour you want at the DMZ Ticket Office at the southern Imjingak parking lot. Of course, the course is the same (= Dorasan Observatory → Third Tunnel → Dorasan Station → Tongilchon/ about three hours), but the cost depends on whether you use the monorail or walk.

 

4. Prepares: Since most civilian restricted areas are in the majority, you must bring your ID card, and if you are underage, you may need more documents. (It is impossible for a young adult to travel here alone.)

 

5. NOTE: For your information, security tours may be hastily cancelled depending on the situation of the military units or depending on the weather. And follow the instructions of the guide or manager well.

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