A trip to Seoul will not be complete without a trip to the DMZ or the Korean Demilitarized Zone where a cease-fire between North and South Korea is still in place. Since the Korean peninsula has long been divided into two countries: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and Republic of Korea (South Korea), I felt so fortunate to experience what it's like to be in between these countries. Perhaps this is the most memorable activity that I've had throughout our stay here because of the learnings I got from the whole activity.
Since we chose the morning tour option, we had to be at the meeting place really early. DMZ is around an hour away from the city so make sure to be there on time. Our meeting place was at the lobby area of President Hotel, 16 Bishop Road, Seoul (which can be easily reached if you ride the subway and get out of Exit #8 at Euljiro 1-ga Station). Meanwhile, the vehicle will be a bus or big van depending on the number of people booked for that day’s tour.
On our way to our destination, we were very fortunate to have Mr. Jung join us, a North Korean refugee who ran away from his home country in the hopes of a better future. Personally hearing his experience and what goes through to leave North Korea is shocking, terrifying and incredibly eye opening. He openly answers all our questions about his life and that of the people in North Korea. That itself is already an intriguing and humbling experience.
As we are ac couple kilometres away from the DMZ, we had to stop over to get food and drinks as there are no available convenience stores once we enter DMZ. Here, you can take some photos. It was snowing at this time so might as well.
Next, the DMZ Theater and Exhibition Hall displays important artifacts from the Korean civil war. The theater shows how Korea got divided. It also shows the four tunnels crossing the military demarcation line. These tunnels were believed to have been planned by North Korea as in infiltration route, which is also large enough to enable 30,000 soldiers in one hour. But South Korea was able to detect all these and now are secured. So ironically, North Korea inadvertently ‘helped’ boost South Korea, particularly in terms of tourism plus no royalty fee. (lol).
Since the attack, this Third Tunnel of Aggression, which is also the highlight of the tour, has been blocked with 3 barricades and then turned into a well-guarded tourist site which involves a steep walk down. A word of advice, if you’re claustrophobic, this is a walk that you must skip on. Unfortunately, we cannot bring our cameras inside and had to leave those in the lockers provided. A helmet will be provided for all the guests and I just couldn't help but feel sorry for the tall people cut they'd have to bend their heads or bodies most of the time. Short people like me will have no problem easing through the tunnel inside.
After visiting the tunnel, we headed to Dorasan Station, which is supposedly the first station going to North Korea, more specifically heading towards Pyeongyang. This serves as another tourist attraction for South Korea until the day that it would finally serve as a proper train station that connects North and South Korea. It's so admirable though that this has been built in the hopes of reunification of both countries.
Overall, this experience made me extremely grateful for what I have - the luxuries of the basic necessities and comfort that I currently enjoy. I learned so much in this experience that is not written in textbooks. The older generations in South Korea hopes and dreams that someday, they will be reunited with their brothers and sisters from North Korea and that both countries will have everlasting peace for the next generations to come. This may be far from happening today, but a lot are still hopeful and I just find it unbelievably heartwarming that South Korea is willing to extend support.
For easier booking, Korea Travel Easy makes your DMZ tour experience easy and stress-free.
They also offer other tours and activities around Korea for any season, so make sure to check their website at https://www.koreatraveleasy.com.