Published: May 11th 2012May 5th 2012
We were picked up just after 7am to start our ‘DMZ tour’ with VIPTours in Seoul. To be honest I was a bit skeptical when our tour guide was wearing 4 inch heels, pink and purple splatter painted skinny jeans, a jersey top, a bejewelled baseball hat and was so proud to be the same height as Lady Gaga. She proved me wrong and ended up being a great guide who was so interesting to talk to about South Korean politics and government.
The demilitarized zone between North and South Korea is about 250 km long and 4km wide. It is the most heavily militarized border in the world! On our drive out to the DMZ there is a huge barbed wire fence and guard posts all along the Han River to keep out North Korean 'commandos'.
Our first stop was Imjingak Park to check out Freedom Bridge and the Peace bell. We went to Dorason Station – South Korea's most northerly train stop and a symbol of hope that one day North and South Korea will be reunited.
Dora Observatory is up on a hill and gives tourists a chance to see the area. Both
North and South Korea maintain peace villages
in sight of each other's side of the DMZ. In South Korea, Daeseong-dong has villagers who are Korean Citizens but are exempt from paying taxes. In North Korea there is Kijong-dong. It appears to be a luxury village in North Korea. However, it was discovered that the buildings are simply concrete shells with no glass in the windows or even interior rooms. The lights are turned on and off at set times to have an illusion of activity!
From the observatory you can also see 2 giant flags. In 1980s, the South Korean government built a 98.4 m flag pole. In response, North Korea built a 160 m tall flag pole. For a while they were the 2 biggest flags in the world! On a clear day (not today) you can see a statue of Kim Il-Seong in the distance. It's said that there are about 25 000 statues of him in North Korea. Wow.
Our last stop on the tour was the 3rd
Infiltration Tunnel. There are currently 4 known tunnels that the North Koreans have dug and probably many more that still haven't been found.
tunnel was discovered in 1978. It is 1600 meters long and 350 feet deep and runs under the DMZ. These tunnels were dug by North Korea so that they could launch surprise attacks. Each tunnel is large enough for an entire infantry division to pass through in one hour.
The North Koreans painted all of the tunnel walls black so that when they were confronted about the tunnel they claimed that it was a coal mine (even though its pure granite down there)!
In the afternoon, after the DMZ tour, we made our way over the the Hongdae University District and walked around the free market. University students set up stands there to sell their home made creations on Saturday and Sunday. Very cool!
There are more photos below