The Korean Demilitarized Zone (otherwise known as the DMZ) marks the division between North and South Korea; a 250 km long and 4 km wide buffer zone. This zone was created as part of the Korean Armistice Agreement between North Korea, the People’s Republic of China, and the United Nations Command forces in 1953 (thanks, Wikipedia). Though this area claims to be a Demilitarized Zone, it is ironically one of the most heavily militarized borders in the world. You wouldn’t want to pass up the opportunity to go on a DMZ Tour, as this will probably be the closest you’ll ever get to North Korea.
There are a few different tours that you can go on which will cost you about ₩40, 000 for their cheapest tour that ran from 8:00 – 2:30 pm (about $45 CDN or $ 290 HKD). I recommend arranging this through the front desk of your hotel.
We were picked up from our hotel promptly at 8:00 am and made our way to our first stop: Imjingak Park/Village. This area is the furthest north that South Koreans and tourists alike can go freely and it has information, and various monuments and historical memorabilia linked to Korea’s past. We were able to see the “Bridge of Freedom”, which was built for the sole purpose of trading prisoners of war.
Afterwards, we boarded on our bus and went to the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel. This tunnel is the – yup, you guessed it – third tunnel that the South Korean military found in 1978 going across the border from North to South Korea. The military have discovered four tunnels so far, but they believe there are many more leading into South Korea that have yet to be found. North Korea claimed that it must have been an old coal mine by smearing coal along the walls, but this is hardly believable since there are various holes in the walls that are fit for explosives.
On this tour, we were able to walk through part of the 1635 m Infiltration Tunnel, but we were not allowed to take any photographs while inside. It’s quite dark, dingy, and wet in the tunnel, so I was quite happy to get out of there and breathe some fresh air again.
Once we were outside, we made our way to the Dora Observatory, located on top of Mount Dora, where you can strain to see (if you’re lucky enough to be there on a clear day) North Korea. The Dora Observatory is actually the closest place you can get to North Korea while still on South Korean soil.
They have telescopes on the observatory, but you are not allowed to take any photographs past a certain line. Not that it would have made much of a difference when I was there – the weather was so horrible you could barely see 20 feet in front of you.
Our last stop of the DMZ Tour was Dorasan Station. This railway station once connected North and South Korea. For some time, there was an agreement between the two countries to send supplies from South Korea to be manufactured in North Korea and then shipped back down. Though they stopped this a few years ago because North Korea made accusations against South Korea, there are still a few trains per day that pass through the station.
The intent is that one day, when fighting ends between the two countries, this railway will go through North Korea and will connect to the Trans Eurasian Railway Network.
When you’re at the station, you can purchase a ticket (though it won’t actually get you anywhere) to go out onto the tracks.
If you want to know more about the history of North and South Korea, you can check this out.