Panmunjum & DMZ/JSA

In an effort to make the most of my remaining time here in Korea, I’ve been spending the last couple of weeks visiting the things I’ve really been wanting to see while I’m here. That, along with my preparations for returning State-side, have kept me far too busy to keep this blog up-to-date! However, there was one major highlight I wanted to write on – my visit to Panmunjom and the DMZ last weekend.

The tour was the much-venerated USO tour, and is every bit as good as I expected! Our tour group was all foreigners, and appeared to be almost all military and government contractors (which was a weird experience – it’s been a while since I’ve been around so many Americans). We departed from Camp Kim and took a tour bus to the 3rd tunnel area, which is interesting but surprisingly a bit touristy. Sadly I had to surrender my camera before entering the tunnel, but I did get a few shots of the surrounding area.

Sculpture at 3rd Tunnel area

We then stopped at an Army observation post that has a spectacular view of Kaesong Industrial Complex and the massive North Korean flag at Kijong-dong (the North Korean propaganda village). No pictures allowed for security reasons, so you’ll have to take my word for it!

The next stop was Dorasan Station, a train station in the DMZ built recently to house the crowds that are hoped to someday transit between the two Koreas. Freight trains did run briefly past here to Kaesong in 2007-2008, but were discontinued by the North Koreans. Now the station sits empty and serves mainly as a tourist attraction.

Empty arrival and customs hall at Dorasan Station

A sign I saw: "The first station towards the North..."

We then proceeded to Camp Bonifas (once again, no pictures were allowed), where we received a briefing from a U.S. Army NCO. The briefing was in typical military fashion – quick and to the point. From this point forward, our tour was turned over to another U.S. serviceman who served as our tour guide. He was actually quite good and seemed to get a kick out of doing the tours (which I’m sure is a lot more fun than most Army jobs!). Our group was taken by bus a short distance to the JSA, where I could finally take a few pictures. The JSA was surprisingly small – for some reason, I expected an area that received so much attention to be bigger! We got off the bus, walked quickly through the Peace House and all of a sudden were looking at the famous blue UN buildings that straddle the border. It was kind of surreal and a little unnerving to stand outside and suddenly realize that you’re being stared at (and probably photographed)  by the North Koreans. Still, the history geek in me was thrilled to visit an area that’s such a major part of recent history and current affairs.

UNMAC building, one of the famous blue buildings straddling the border

Our tour guide is the one wearing a hat and camo. A ROK guard can be seen directly behind him

Two ROK soldiers looking across the border. A North Korean guard is in the distance, to the left

~ by theuncommonlife on August 20, 2010.

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