the dmz

Writing this is a little daunting. I’m not sure how to describe the experience I had going to the Demilitarized Zone. It wasn’t overly emotional or anything. But it was strange. I’ve never been that close to war in my life. Thankfully. So very thankfully. And it’s not like the horrible attacks that happened just last week, which I can’t begin to fathom either. But it is still a war zone and it was a life changing experience, just the same.

To be honest, I’ve always been fascinated by the Cold War. Not interested, per se, but fascinated. There’s a big difference. When I went to Berlin for the first time not so many years ago, I had a similar experience. The thought of locking people into a country just fascinates me. I don’t really understand it. I try because it’s my nature to want to understand what possesses people to do such things. I find people in general fascinating. I love figuring out why they do what they do. But the stuff that the Cold War was made of I cannot even begin to understand. Try as I might.

Back to not being interested. I don’t really care about the facts and figures so much. The dates of attacks? The military strategies? Not my thing. What fascinates me is the indomitability of the human spirit, the deception of a few evil people and the desire for power so great that one would do horrible, unthinkable things to get it. Or to get the illusion of it, because let’s be honest, it’s not real power. Real power comes from respect and love, not fear.

In any case, when I made the decision to visit Korea, I hadn’t even thought about the DMZ. I didn’t even know you could visit it. I’d seen pictures and videos on TV, but I didn’t realize it was a tourist attraction. And I’m not really sure what motivates everyone to go there. But I know what my motivation was. I wanted to see North Korea. I wanted to actually see the land behind the barbed wire fences. And see it, I did. And it was pretty eerie.

Prior to going there, I also started reading a book, a memoir, written by a survivor of a North Korean “re-education” camp (aka concentration camp) called The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag and it has been a very good read. It also made the visit that much more effective, I think. And unlike visiting Berlin, a place that no longer has concentration camps, looking over into North Korea I could imagine the people who are still experiencing such awful things and it was powerful.

Okay, enough of that. I will now give you a tour in photos because that’s how I roll. I’m going to apologize in advance for the poor quality of a number of them. I might have accidentally taken some unauthorized photos along the way. Also, I have no time to edit pictures these days (other than the occasional crop), so these are all straight from my camera.

It’s hard to see, but on the other side of the river is a propaganda village. Essentially, a fake village that was built in order to encourage defectors back in the days following the Korean War (or the fighting part…the war is still technically happening). 
These mountains in North Korea used to be covered with tall trees. Our tour guide told us that most of the trees near the borders are cut down in order  to make it harder for would be escapees to hide in them. 

An old train that used to run throughout Korea before there was a North and South, damaged during the war and now a monument in Imjingak near the Bridge of Freedom, where it is reported that POWs were exchanged during the war.

The bridge…and how sad that this river just goes to waste because it sits in the DMZ. 

Before we went into the Third Infiltration Tunnel (aka the Third Tunnel of Aggression), we watched this super creepy, propaganda filled (the South is guilty of it to) film. It was slightly traumatizing.

The tunnel down to the tunnel…a 300+ meter hike down…and back up.

A photo that accidentally ended up on my iPhone. The tunnel was creepy and made for the average Korean (aka short people…no offense to my Korean friends) 
Kijong-dong is a city just inside North Korean (another accidental photo). The former propaganda village now houses factory workers as there is a factory that exists there supported by South Korea.
A better shot with my real camera from behind the yellow line (where I could take pictures)…I had to hold my camera up and shoot blind though, so it still isn’t fantastic.

This train station has been built in anticipation of the reunification of Korea. It is the last train stop before North Korea and will beginning of the link that will connect Korea to Europe. 

3 thoughts on “the dmz

  1. I'm kind of obsessed with North Korea. That movie previously suggested is good. There is also another one on Netflix called the Vice Guide to North Korea. Super creepy. Seriously, I don't watch horror movies, but I do get my kicks from watching creepy North Korea stuff. I'm not sure if you can stream Netflix in Japan. I read once that the DMZ has turned into this incredible wildlife sanctuary that no one can really visit. I'm glad you got to visit the DMZ. I regret not going when I was in South Korea. I think I read that about the ax incident that occurred there and it just freaked me out a little too much.

  2. This is Annette Christensen from that weird Marriott valuation project. Yes, I follow your blog. If you get a chance, check out "National Geographic: Inside North Korea". Makes North Korea seem even more creepy. It's on Netflix, if you have that.

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