Korea: visting the demilitarized zone
January 1, 1970
A little history
Before and during world war two. Korea was colonized by Japan for 35 years. After the war was finally over so was the Japenese rule over Korea. The country was left with no government until the united states and the soviet union agreed to occupy and take care of the country until a government was elected. However disputes happened and a decision was never made on who should be the goverment of Korea as a whole. The elections only took place in the south where it became known at the republic of korea and the democratic people’s republic in the North. Tensions rose over a unified country and arguements over the countries political status. As they couldnt come to an agreement the country remained divided. These high tensions led to North Korea invading the South on June which led to the Korean war which lasted for just over 3 years. Nothing good came from this war except death so a permanent divide was made between the country. Families were ripped apart and nothing came but fear of the unknow. My trip was to visit the DMZ ( demilitarized zone ).
If you visit or live in South Korea then you must visit here. We headed to a place called imjingak where we would start our journey. First stop was the DMZ sign to get a picture. The place is heavily guarded as you would expect. to be honest I couldn’t help but feel nervous, unaware of what I would see or feel here. The Border is actually 160 miles long and 2.5 miles wide so don’t worry you cant just step over into the North thankfully.
There are still unfound landmines in the area so you will see alot of these signs. The south koreans have claimed that the North had set up these landmines to stop any people trying to cross to their side. There have been many incidents of soldiers setting of explosions ending in tradegy. The North Korean government have denied any involvement in the planting of the mines. So if you see any of these signs, don’t get too close.
3rd infiltration tunnel
This was probably the most intense part of the trip. We were heading to the tunnel that the North Koreans had built to invade the South. Its a pretty scary thought to think that they had actually gotten into the South, and even more scary that I was putting a hard hat on with a flashlight and was going down there. It was such an eerie feeling down there. Everyone was pretty quiet, probably all lost in our own thoughts, walking in the very same steps as North korean soldiers digging their way to get through. The tunnel was really small and you had to scoot down to walk through without bumping your head. We suddenly came to a big steel door. There was a small window near the top. As you looked through you could see another door a few metres up. There are 3 doors here, protection from anyone trying to get through. Looking through that window gave me the chills. We were not supposed to take photos here but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to show people what I had seen. We turned around and headed back out. You will also see yellow circles on the sides and ceiling of the tunnel. These are the dynamite stick holes ready to be used to cause destruction. After we breathed in the fresh air and shook the feelings away, it was onto our next stop. The train station.
Dorason station was the station you would get on to go to pyeongyang, however the station was closed before public use. It was used however in 2007 to transport materials but the North kotean government decided to close the border in 2008. The station is new looking clean and fresh and completly finished. The sign tracks to Pyeongyang will give you the chills. You can also pay extra to go out onto the platform and see the tracks. If you go to the little table on the left there is a stamp which says dorason station. You can stamp it on paper and take it home with you. There is also a small gift shop seeling souvenirs, books, North Korean alcohol and chocolate. Hopefully one day the station will reopen for the reunification.
This was definatly most emotional part of the trip and I definatly felt a tear walking around here. The first thing you will see is a huge rusted train with dents and bullet holes. This train was travelling to the capital with materials when it sadly got caught up in the war. A sign of the tradegy that it was. You will also see thousands of colorful ribbons. On these are messages from koreans wishing for peace snd a reunification and messages to family they have in the North. You can also walk along some of the bridge of freedom that connects to the North. It was built to trade prisoners of war. Now it is blocked and is used as a rememberance place for families. This part is so moving and brought a tear to my eye when I saw childrens drawings of families. Above all the fencing is barbed wire. Just another reminder of how closed of the two sides of the country are from each other.
Our last stop was the observatory point where you can look through telescopes to the North. Its like looking over to another world. Completly different to what it looks like in the south. There are fields, hardly any buildings, no cars and no people. You can see a fake village of propaganda. You will also see the South and North korean flags. The north raised a little higher of course. I will never forget this experience. Looking over and seeing the mysterious country just a few miles away and nothing you can do but just look and wonder about everything. I felt all kinds of emotions and my heart goes out to the families who were destroyed. Lets just all pray that they will meet again.