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25.10.17

Seoul - DMZ visit

visit to the border between North Korea and South Korea
They are standing in this direction, always keeping their eyes in the enemy

English
Despite having been to Seoul 5 times before summer 2017, I had never gotten a chance to visit the demilitarised zone (DMZ) between South and North Korea. Located ironically close to Seoul (you can read this post to learn why) it is quite a unique experience that you can only get access to by joining a guided tour. We are against guided anything but since this was the only option, we ended up joining COSMOJIN tour which is not cheap, but has a very good guide with deep historical knowledge who makes the bus rides quite interesting.

Regardless of tour company, just make sure that whichever tour you pick includes a visit to the JSA (Joint Security Area) which is jointly managed by the UN and North Korea military personnel. For us, the powerpoint presentation and chat with the soldiers was absolutely the best.

The day is common for almost all tours, goes  as follows:
  1. Early (7AM) pick-up at the hotel followed by 1h bus ride
  2. Visit to Pamunjon, where the JSA is located.
  3. Including powerpoint presentation from US Army soldiers, visit to the actual frontier, buildings where reunification talks took place as well as other sad events, like the axe murder incident in 1976.
  4. Visit to Dora Observatory
  5. Where you can catch a glimpse of North Korea and propaganda villages located right in the DMZ, where both sides fight for the tallest flag pole - currently North Korea's is winning - and broadcast propaganda messages day long.
  6. Lunch
  7. Visit to Jangdan station
  8. A rusty steam locomotive train which was destroyed by the Americans during the war, to prevent it from falling in the wrong hands, is kept as a symbol of the tragic history of the divided peninsula.
  9. Visit to North Korea Infiltration tunnels
  10. Turns out that North Korea built in the 70s several long tunnels under the DMZ with the objective of attacking Seoul.
  11. Visit to Dorasan Station
  12. Built with great hopes of reunification, it had a railway connecting the Kaesong Industrial Zone in the North with the South until 2008, when the dream to connect all the way from Seoul through China to Europe vanished.
  13. 1h ride back to Seoul
  14. (tourist trap) visit to Ginseng Factory
This visit, combined with a visit to The War Memorial of Korea [WEB] which is free of charge and located in Itaweon, is really worthwhile if you are interested in the history of the peninsula. If you are really interested in the topic, we recommend you watching:
- The Interview - quite an ironic view of the situation in the North
- JSA - a movie that the president of South Korea gave to the president of the North, to stress the hope for reunification.

Spanish
Pese a haber estado en Seoul unas 5 veces antes del verano de 2017, nunca había tenido oportunidad de visitar la zona desmilitarizada (DMZ) entre el Norte y el Sur. Dado que está situada irónicamente cerca de Seúl (puedes leer este post para saber por qué), es una experiencia única que resulta fácil combinar con una semana en la ciudad, siempre y cuando estés dispuesto a unirte a un tour guiado, que es la única forma de ir. En general, no nos gustan las cosas guiadas (a excepción del buceo) pero como no quedaba otra, nos decantamos por COSMOJIN donde al menos el guía sabía de lo que hablaba y amenizaba bastante el viaje en bus.

Independientemente de la compañía, simplemente te recomendamos asegurar que el tour incluya una visita a la JSA (Joint Security Area), donde soldados de ambos lados residen para mantener la paz. Irónicamente, la zona desmilitarizada tiene esta base con muchísimos soldados.

El plan del día es el siguiente:
  1. Recogida en el hotel (7AM) seguida de una hora en bus
  2. Visita a Pamunjon, donde está la JSA.
  3. El tour comienza con una presentación donde los soldados Americanos explican la historia de la base, seguido de una visita a la frontera y los edificios donde las charlas de reunificación tuvieron lugar - sin mucho éxito - así como otros incidentes e.g. asesinato con hacha en 1976.
  4. Visita al mirador Dora
  5. Desde allí puedes echar un vistazo a Korea del Norte y los pueblos propaganda situados en medio de los 4km de zona desmilitarizada, en los que ambos lados luchan por tener la bandera más alta - Korea del Norte va ganando, como muestra la foto inferior - y transmiten propaganda a todo volumen el día entero.
  6. Lunch
  7. Visita a la estación Jangdan
  8. Nunca pensé que un tren podría contener tanta historia. En la estación Jangdan, una serie de paneles cuentan la historia del pobre tren de vapor que espera en la estación, oxidado y destruido a balazos aliados - con el objetivo de que no cayera en manos del enemigo - como símbolo de la tragedia de la guerra y la subsecuente división de la península.
  9. Visita a los túneles de infiltración de Korea del Norte
  10. Aunque no estén permitidas las fotos, la visita al tercer túnel de infiltración que fue descubierto en 1978, desvela los planes ocultos que el Norte tenía de atacar Seúl usando fuerzas que cruzaran la frontera bajo tierra.
  11. Visita a la estación Dorasan 
  12. Una estación que hasta 2008 funcionaba, llevando a trabajadores materiales del Sur a fábricas del Norte en el distrito industrial de Kaesong y volviendo con materiales finalizados, está hoy en día completamente vacía.
  13. Bus de vuelta a Seoul
  14. (trama turística) Visita a la fábrica de Ginseng

Este tour, combinado con una visita al The War Memorial of Korea [WEB] que es gratuito y está en Itaweon, el centro de Seoul, merece la pena si te interesa la historia de la Península. Estos temas de guerra son bastante adictivos y si te quedas con ganas de más, hay dos películas que merece la pena ver:
The Interview - una visión irónica de la vida en el Norte
- JSA - una película antigua que trascendió hasta niveles presidenciales, el presidente del Sur le dio una copia al del Norte.


1. Bus ride - surrounded by barbed wire
visit to the border between North Korea and South Korea
2. JSA
visit to the border between North Korea and South Korea
visit to the border between North Korea and South Korea
3. Dora observatory
visit to the border between North Korea and South Korea
visit to the border between North Korea and South Korea
visit to the border between North Korea and South Korea
visit to the border between North Korea and South Korea
4. Lunch
visit to the border between North Korea and South Korea
5. Jangdan station
visit to the border between North Korea and South Korea
visit to the border between North Korea and South Korea
visit to the border between North Korea and South Korea
6. Infiltration tunnel
visit to the border between North Korea and South Korea
visit to the border between North Korea and South Korea
visit to the border between North Korea and South Korea
7. Dorasan station
visit to the border between North Korea and South Korea
visit to the border between North Korea and South Korea
visit to the border between North Korea and South Korea
visit to the border between North Korea and South Korea
Dreaming about a brighter future.
visit to the border between North Korea and South Korea

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