Demilitarized Zone, Korea – The DMZ has become a hot spot for international tourism. There were about 20 buses winding their way up to the various sites, which included the observation point, a walk through tunnel three and the train station.
Crowds were everywhere with people speaking a myriad of languages as hassled guides tried to keep them under control.
To be fair, the only way to the DMZ was by tourist bus.
We boarded a caravan with Suriani, Dzul (my 3-year-old son) and me bound for the demarcation line which brought the Korean War to a standstill. The lanes were three in each direction, a symbol of status in this developed country. Soon, on our left, the signs of war became increasingly familiar. Fences with curling razor wire lined the roadway. Guard post and soldiers could be seen next to the road as North Korea lay opposite a wide shallow body of water. The people in the bus became quiet, staring out at the unfamiliar.
Our first stop was at the observation platform atop a mountain. We transverse a two-lane winding road. The atmosphere was carnival like with people purchasing hot dogs, Korean food and t-shirts from the vendors. People with hats, wide brim and baseball types, all hustled along to see the DMZ. Arriving at the platform was a yellow line beyond which no pictures could be taken.
It was strictly enforced by the Korean Army, which deleted photos of those who took pictures beyond that point.
There are three actual lines. The first is where only persons who farm the area or who work in the zone where there is South and North Korean cooperation. No one else is permitted.
The second is the actual line itself that separates North and South Korea. The third is the North Korean line marking the extent of civilian entry. All three lines were visible from the platform overlooking a valley.
As one scans from left to right, one sees hills and valleys. Then the flag of South Korea comes into view followed by the flag of North Korea. I believe they are the largest banners in the world.
We were too far away to see much activity but were aware of pill boxes, fences and razor wire demarcating the entrance into the civilian banned areas. I watched a couple of Korean soldiers take a camera and deleted the photos of a Chinese person who didn't understand the regulations and was complaining rather loudly until the soldier pointed a gun at him. He quieted down after that.
We next visited a railroad station. South Korea is a peninsula where half of it is cut off from the world. Therefore, all their products, such as Samsung televisions and Hyundai (means" Hello" in Korean) cars must be sent by freighter to other ports of call. The idea is to have a railroad which will connect through North Korea, then China on wards via the trans-Siberian and thence to Europe to be off loaded in Paris, dropping cars and television sets along the way.
The business of a railroad station is in the hope this would one day occur. Right now, the station is not used but is very modern and mainly shown as to tourists as symbol for the reunification, or at least a rail line, to connect to the trans-Siberian. I am not sure if it will be cheaper than the ocean going freighters, but they apparently thinks so.
The third site we visited was the Third Tunnel. This tunnel, coupled with four others, was carved deep below the DMZ by the communists in order to mount an attack in the 70s. Each of the four tunnels would come together as one unit, allowing for troops and munitions to flow through. There are probably others under the DMZ that have yet to be discovered. I had to stay above ground with my son, but my wife told me the decline was very steep and the walls composed of yellow paint to show the places where coal was discovered in order to disguise the tunnel as a mining operation.
The tunnel connected to a point where it became a North Korean one, and then back tracked along the same path, following a steep incline. South Korea pumped in air for the thousands of tourists who visit the place every week.
The DMZ has become a major tourist attraction because it is the only spot in the world where a country is still divided by World War II. Germany and the Eastern bloc were the other two.
The half-day tour costs only about $46 per person and is relatively cheap by tourist standards. I wish them well.
...Life is good. . . . .