Korea's Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)

The Korean peninsula is divided between the North and the South. The North are a bit scary, the South are sound. The DMZ an area across the peninsula which divides the two countries. Back in the day, the two agreed to have a demilitarized zone where there would be no conflict. Both governments come together to meet there at a place called the JSA (Joint Security Area). The DMZ is 2km wide on both sides. 

There are many tours which run to the DMZ everyday from Seoul. There are also tours from the province Gangwon-do. I went on a morning tour operated by Vvip Travel. I found the tour using google, and it was the cheapest option too. 

Cost: 30,000 pp
Times: Morning (7.30-2.30pm)
What it includes: An English speaking tour guide, pick up at a choice of three subway stations, Imjingak Park, The Bridge of Freedom, The 3rd Infiltration Tunnel, DMZ Theatre and Exhibition Hall, Dora Observatory, Dorasan Station, Unification Villiage, Ginseng Center and drop off. 

It was raining on the day of the tour, so it was so hard to get a taxi! We made it on time for the tour thankfully, and were picked up from Myeongdong Station. They phoned me to check I was coming, 5 minutes before they were set to depart. 

It took about an hour to get to the DMZ area. There are strict rules, so don't break them! In some places, you can't take photographs. it makes sense, you might be a North Korean spy! 

Imjingak Park
To start off, we got to Imjingak park. I was so annoyed! The tour guide only allowed 15 minutes in this area. There was a lot to see. We only had time to use the bathroom, grab a bite to eat and look at the pavilion and a monument. As we got on the bus, the guide gave us a brochure for the place. I don't know why he didn't give it sooner and allow a longer time to see things. An average of 30 minutes is needed to see everything! 

Bridge of Freedom
The bus drove past the Bridge of Freedom. There were two bridges, I forget the names of them and the stories which match with it. One of them however is nicknamed "Cow Bridge" after the founder of Hyundai. He stole cows, then marched so many back again when the bridge was built. 
We weren't allowed to take photographs. To be quite honest, I fell asleep at the start so missed the first half of the guys speech. 

They checked our passports at the check in gates. Strictly no sunglasses or hats during this point. No photo's either. A guard comes onto the bus to check these. 

Theatre and Exhibition Hall
Then we got to the Theatre and Exhibition hall. The theatre was an 8 minute movie about the reason for the DMZ. Pointless. We didn't even get to look at the exhibition hall. The 8 minute video was all about the DMZ tunnels, and very one sided (obviously).

This was a cool monument, representing the two countries one day unifying. 

3rd Infiltration Tunnel
Then we were guided to the infiltration tunnel. 
North Korea made 4 tunnels to South Korea. Apparently it's so they could invade. However, they were caught. There are 4 tunnels along the DMZ. One of them is in Gangwon (my province). 
In the tunnel, there are NO photographs.

All phones and bags needed to be placed in lockers. Disappointing. They could have had a designated spot down there. Especially when they made it a tourist attraction.

The tunnel is about 5ft 3" high and wide enough for two rows of traffic (back and forth). I walked through the tunnel fine, even with a helmet. However, if you're taller than 5'3, expect a few head bumps. 

Dora Observatory
After the tunnel, we went to the Dora Observatory. At this observatory, you can look over towards North Korea. On a usual day, you might be able to see something but because it was raining, it was foggy, so not much could be seen. There was a faint outline of the river. Beyond that river is North Korea.

Dorasan Station
The tour then ventured to Dorasan Station. It's a fully working train station. They had a real waiting room and train tracks leading to Pyeongyang. Due to the conflict, no trains are running there. They built it for trade, however that didn't work out. They hope to one day unify and use the station as a connecting point.

You can get a train from the Gyeongui line from Seoul station to the station.

It was quite strange to see a fully working station, but no trains going into it. There is an option to get a photo of the tracks I think. 

Maybe one day, we will be able to travel to Pyeongyang by train! 

It would be nice grabbing a train straight home! It's one of our options getting home in the future. We will get the Trans-Siberian Express home! Let hope that when we eventually go home, the trains through North Korea will be running. 

Unification Village
I'm not even sure where the Unification Village was. To be honest, it was a pretty poor tour. I guess it was where we passed the houses used by farmers. I'm not sure.
Apparently, the village in the DMZ is inhabited by farmers. These farmers get a free house and land. They also get paid a fortune to farm there, as no one wants to do it. These are the richest farmers in the country. 

Ginseng Centre
Then it was the Ginseng Centre which was a waste of time. Obviously the tour gets commission by bringing people there. It was supposed to be a tour, but all they did was take us to a room and advertise their products. We spent so long there which could have used at Imjingak Park.

Overall, I am glad I was there to see it. It was a great experience, seeing the tunnel, looking over towards N. Korea and the station to Pyeongyang. But, I do feel cheated, the time spent at the Ginseng Centre could have been used at the Imjingak Park, where there was a lot to see! 
It was however the cheapest option at 30,000 per person. Other's were around 45,000. The full day tour would be a waste of time and money in my opinion. Although, it does involved going to the JSA, it also takes you to tourist sites in Seoul, but obviously with a time limit in each place. You could see these sites yourself, with no time limit. 


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