Journal Entry: 6/7/09
Journey into the Demilitarized Zone of Korea started off with a checkpoint from the military guards. All passports had to be checked before entrance. No pictures were allowed of the guards on duty.
First stop is Imjingak in Paju. This is a park that has several statues and monuments regarding the Korean War. This is where the “Bridge of Freedom” lies. The Freedom bridge does cross the Imjin River but crosses a stream adjacent to it as it follows the train connecting North and South Korea. It is famous for being the site of the exchange of POW’s from the war.
The most heavily militarized border in the world sits at the 38th parallel between North and South Korea. The two sides signed a ceasefire on July 27, 1953 marking the end of the Korean War. The DMZ was created as each side agreed to move their troops back 2,000 meters from the Military Demarcation Line (MDL). The whole DMZ is about 2.5 miles wide and it has become a wildlife reserve. Since the armistice agreement was never followed by a peace treaty, the nation is still at war.
Mt. Dora Observatory was where you could view North Korea through binoculars. This is the part of South Korea closest to the North. It was too foggy to be able to see much of anything but we did get to see a North Korean guard post. No pictures were allowed past a yellow-marked line unless you would want to sit in a tour hour class about what you did wrong.
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We went to the 3rd Tunnel which was built by North Korea about 250ft. underground. It is about 5ft wide and 5ft tall. It was designed to be a surprise attack on Seoul. There are three other tunnels found but rumors have it at about 20 total. North Korea never admitted to planning an invasion and instead painted the walls of the caves black and proclaimed them to be coal mines. There are dynamite holes in the walls that point toward South Korea. South Korea has placed three concrete barricades in the tunnel before the MDL.
The Dorasan Station railway, which connects Seoul and Panmunjom, was called the Gyeongui Line before division in the 1940s. It is the last station a South Korean citizen can visit without going into North Korea. Currently the train only ships materials to the Kaesong Industrial region and ships back finished goods. Its reconnection has been seen as part of the general thawing in the relations between North and South in the early part of this century.
This entire train station is empty besides the tour buses of people that showed up. We got a picture with a military personnel guarding the gate to the tracks. The inter-Korean railroad is still unfinished for citizens. At the station, they had passport stamps that one would hypothetically get if they traveled to North Korea, but there was a picture of no stamping your passport.
On the wall there is a picture of former President George W Bush signing the railroad tie with President Kim Dae-jung. His visit to the station on February 19, 2002 where he had attended the ceremony beginning construction of the railway to reconnect the Koreas. Bush is holding the marker upside down and below the picture is the actual signed railroad tie.
We had the rest of the evening to ourselves and decided to have dinner at Outback steakhouse. Later on we went to Itewan to experience foreigners street at night. Went to the U.N. Club to dance and enjoy ourselves.
In 2009 I traveled to South Korea to study abroad. I kept a diary of each day of my visit. When I returned to the United States, I created these digitized posts of my entries and the images that I took on each corresponding day. You can find all the South Korea journal entries here.