Tuesday, November 23, 2010

DMZ..timing is everything

I wrote the below post yesterday and had been planning on posting it this morning...As they say, everything happens for a reason! North Korea has fired artillery shells at a populated South Korean Island. Many news agencies are saying that this is the worst attack since the "end" of the war. Tensions are high and what makes this all a bit more crazy is that we were at the DMZ on Saturday.

For more on the attacks, check out the BBC article:

Here is what I had written earlier on today about my perception of the DMZ. It was so calm and I am sure if I went there today I would have a very different picture. Either way, I am happy I got a chance to see it!

OK, I will stop blabbing...this is what we experienced on Saturday:

It's and eerie place and your'e never quite certain if what you are seeing is reality. A country divided. Literally. Well, it is true which makes it both fascinating and sad.

On Saturday, Oliver and I together with four other friends made our way to Seoul to do a DMZ/JSA tour.

We set off in our tour bus at 08:30 and it took us only an hour to reach the border where the country is split. This was intriguing ...just an hour from the capital of Seoul lies a divide, the likes of which haven't been known since the Berlin Wall.

Our first stop was the third tunnel, a tunnel which was made by North Korea and which is 44km away from Seoul. This is one of four such tunnels discovered which has lead analysts to suspect that others may exist. The tunnel extends beyond the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) and was understood as a direct threat by North Korea to invade Seoul.

 before heading down the tunnel

After that, we went up to the Dora Observatory where you are able to try and see into North Korea. Unfortunately we didn't have a very clear day but regardless we were able to see the skyline of a city in North Korea. We were also able to see their infamous flag which is said to be the biggest and heaviest in the world.

 The best view we could get due to the fog

After lunch it was off to Imjin-Gak Park which has become a popular park for South Koreans to visit on the weekend. There is a small carnival, a couple of restaurants, and a generally nice atmosphere but if you look a little deeper you realise that there are messages written on small pieces of material attached to the fence bordering on the DMZ. Messages to people that family have lost due to the DMZ....cries of love and sorrow. It was really moving!

Then, it was off to the Joint Security Area (JSA) which was something else. We had to go through several security checks, have our clothing and cameras examined and then have a briefing. We were escorted by a soldier though-out the entire thing.

In lines of two we walked silently up a flight of stairs passed several soldiers which were intimidating in size and stature. Then, we were at Panmunjom, the place you always see on TV when people talk about the split between North and South Korea.

We had only five minutes in the room where officials meet to talk about politics and the Armistice. The extent to which the line is drawn is incredible. One side of the table belongs to the South and the other to the North. We were given the opportunity to cross the line, and for a brief moment we were in the most hermit country in the world.

What a strange and eerie feeling...

We then made our way passed the site of the Axe Murder incident and the bridge of no-return.

What an emotional day full... but totally worth it!

Post by Claudia


Post a Comment