I’ve been lazy lately and haven’t been updating the blog… I went to the DMZ a little while ago and also to the Joint Security Area (JSA) which is in the DMZ. The JSA is the only place in the DMZ where you can actually step foot into North Korea. We were literally right next to North Korea but we only saw one North Korean soldier since apparently the only time the soldiers are present is when they conduct their own tours. Yes, apparently North Korea also gives tours of the JSA. The only way to go to the JSA is to book a tour, the procedures to get into this area are quite strict and everyone’s identity was che
cked with passports and the passenger count was checked both when we entered the DMZ and when we left (in case anyone decided to go to the North, I guess?)
My tour was the whole day and also included a stop at the war memorial of Korea in the morning, Imjingak bridge (where we also had lunch) and the JSA in the afternoon. The tour departed from the President Hotel in Seoul at 9:50, and we were back there around 5pm. There are other tour options including visiting some of the tunnels that were dug by the North, it is also possible to visit some of the towns near the DMZ without a tour as well.
The stop at the war memorial was somewhat useless in my opinion since we only had 1 hour and our guide talked for about 20 mins so we really didn’t have much time to look around. The war memorial is pretty big and I think in itself would probably take a whole day to get through if you really wanted to look at everything. I don’t know if it was a special that day but they also had a free book available about the Korean war at the entrance in both Korean and English, I didn’t want to carry it all day so I didn’t pick one up. Since I plan to go back I hope they will still have the book available at that time. I’ll do another post about the war memorial when I go back but here are some of the pictures I took.
The next stop was lunch and Imjingak park. This park is located 10km from the DMZ and is a place where some of the separated families go sometimes to either tie ribbons to hope for reunification or have some of the ancestral rites as well. There are pictures of both of those places below.
The final stop before heading back to Seoul, was the JSA. On the way to the JSA our soldier tour guide gave us some information on the two only villages which are inside the DMZ. Both North and South Korea are allowed 1 village within the border of the DMZ, South Korea has Freedom Village (if I remember correctly) and North Korea has what is referred to as propaganda village. It is a phantom village in which no one lives and is meant to show off how “well off” the North is, it is in fact a fake village in which there aren’t even any windows. Unfortunately we did not get to see either of these villages.
The South’s village however is in fact inhabited and falls under the jurisdiction of the UN and so the men who live there are not required to serve in the military. This is the reason why women can marry into the village, but men cannot because some may try to avoid their military service by doing this. Most families farm in this village and farm areas much greater than the average Korean farmers and so make about 100k US/year, they also do not pay any federal taxes since they fall under UN jurisdiction. I thinks that’s everything that they told us about th village.
The rules about taking pictures while in the DMZ were pretty strict there were only three places where we could take pictures. The place where we arrived, the UN building which is half in North Korea and half in South Korea and just outside that building. On the bus ride to that location we were not allowed to take pictures. In the actual JSA we stayed 10 mins, I find there was a lot of hype about this tour for what it turned out to be in the end, it wasn’t nearly as exciting as I thought it would be, but it was interesting nonetheless.