As mentioned earlier, this is definitely the 1st thing that we wanted to do if we were in Seoul. Hence, we browsed through all the packages offered by the local travel agency in order to secure our seats. In addition, DMZ tour package is available throughout the year except Monday and Public Holiday. Plan your trip then. We decided to join the half day DMZ Tour by SeoulNTour. Reason why? It’s the cheapest tour that we could find so far which we only need to pay KRW36,000 (includes tour guide, pick up and drop service, transportation and admission fees). This is a special online price given if only reservation were made via their website.
Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), is a strip of land running across the Korea Peninsular that serves as a buffer zone between South and North Korea. The DMZ is a broad zone of 98,000 ha, 248km long and 4km wide. No hostile actions and facilities can be carried out or installed in this zone except private events or relief work. It was believe that this DMZ area are the most tense zone in the world.
Are you guys ready? Let’s start the tour now!
The tour started as early as 7.30am in the morning and there’s only 4 of us including our new friends from Czech Republic and US. We headed directly to the 1st tour destination – Imjingak Park which covered some of the attraction such as Freedom Bridge, Mangbaeddan (Worship Alter) and Memorial Monument. It’s just a 50 minutes drive from Seoul town.
Imjingak is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Korea which was developed right after the South – North Joint Statement in 1972. Annually, more than 5 million people from Korea and overseas visit Imjingak where visitor can see the pain of the Korean War. This park is basically a place where the conflict between the south and the north of Korea remains in.
We were told by our cute Tour Guide, Gina that it is a place for the displaced people from North Korea to come to Mangbaeddan and cherish the memory of their ancestries on New Year’s Day, Chuseok or whenever they miss their families in North Korea.
Bridge of Freedom, it’s a footbridge where nearly 13,000 prisoners of war were traded here at the end of the Korean War in 1953. They were driven to the Gyeongui line bridge and walked across to return to their homes.
Imjingak Tourist Centre which have various facilities.
The observatory deck in the roof top allows us to see the civilian passage restricted line are and the whole view.
Line of Korean cars
Trying to peep through the anti climb fence from Imjingak Park
With just a minutes left before we continue our journey, we managed to see the one and only steam locomotive that has been collected from Jongdan Station and transferred here at Imjingak Preservation Center. It was totally derailed by bombs during the Korean War. The whole preservation process started way back in 2006 and completed 2 years after. It is now finally exhibited at the entrance of Dokgae Bridge in June 2009.
Colourful ribbons containing a peace messages and hopes from all the international community.
The moment of truth has arrived! Let’s do this! We then followed our Tour Guide, Gina and board on a special bus that has been registered for the DMZ Tour. We were given a long explanation on the do’s and dont’s before we reached the border. We then passed through the Unification Bridge where the Korean Army will check our ID / passport. We just need to show our passport accordingly. Oh ya, Unification Bridge was built by the founder of Hyundai Corp’s where he was born in a poor family in North Korea. He sold his one and only father’s cow and ran to South Korea for a better opportunities. He had been separated from his family since the Korean War and hope for reunification. Therefore, he built the bridge and he even sent back 1,001 cows to North Korea.
We then arrived at our destination which is the 3rd Tunnel. The tunnel was discovered way back in 1978. We were surprised to know that 10,000 soldiers can actually move through the tunnel in an hour. Gina told us that when the tunnel was discovered, North Koreans insisted steadfastly that it was made by South Koreans to invade North Korea but this proved to be false.We were given a chance to walk through the tunnel which ends at the Truce Village of Panmunjeom. It was cold and slippery. No photos taken by us as we left all our stuff in the designated lockers. There’s also DMZ theatre and exhibition hall within the area.
Our Tour Guide, Gina and another 2 new friends from Czech Republic and US.
Next on the list are Dora Observatory. This observatory deck was built by Ministry of Defense where we can actually have a clear view of Gaeseong City, the 3rd largest city in North Korea and also propaganda village. This place is the nearest point to North Korea from South Korea.
We then moved to Dorasan Station which located in the civilian restriction line. It was initially built to reconnect South and North Korea. The objective of the construction is to imply the reality between two Koreans and a future hope and expectation. Furthermore, Dorasan Station is the northernmost station of the South Korea in the southern boundary line and it will play the role of customs and entry from China and Russia as well as the North Koreans if Gyeongui Line Railroad connection is completed and the traffic will make possible between two Koreans. So, today, you will basically view a completed station which are not operated.
Next are the Unification Village. We were told that villagers are classed as Republic of Korea citizens, but are exempted from paying tax and other civic requirements such as the compulsory military service. We passed through the village and stopped over at the market where we can see a lots of local product which includes the fresh fruits and vegetables. Not to forget, we also did quick tour at the Tongilchon Paju DMZ Village Museum.
Tongilchon Paju DMZ Village Museum
The DMZ Tour was really an eye-opening and a reminder that it’s not easy to reach a state of peace. They have gone through a lots of hurdles but still hope for reunification while holding to this principle – The end and to a new beginning. Personally, it was one of our most memorable experience here in South Korea. And also one of the dangerous tour ever!
We will continue our journey on Samsung D’Light Gallery & Shop and Ewha Womans University.
Zara AB & FF
The Province of Chroma