DMZ Tour, South Korea

The past month have kept me pretty busy. I missed train times where I get to sit around and play with my photos. I found this set of photo from my Korea trip last March. Keep in mind I might be going to Korea next month, so there will be more Korea photos coming in the next few weeks.

March was still considerably cold in Seoul, Korea.  I got up one early morning in my hostel found a backpacker bustling around the kitchen.  Usually nobody wakes up at 7 in a cold morning so I was pretty curious, turns out that he signed up a tour with hostel to check out Demilitarized-Zone or DMZ, the dividing line between North and South Koreas. Despite its name, it’s the most heavily militarized zone in the world now.

I thought that was interesting but the tour would have to start in a few minutes.  So I rushed my decision to join the three dudes from my hostel on this bus and never regretted about it. 2015-03-27 227

Seoul, Korea.

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I didn’t know that Seoul, the capital of South Korea is so close to the DMZ line (or the border to the North Korea). After a mere 40 minutes drive we arrived at this little amusement park.  The quiet little park is a joint North-South effort, a first sign of our entrance to the DMZ area.

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Across the park we were greeted by these stone monuments

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Peace Bell Temple.

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The peace bell.

A railroad that goes to North Korea, however the South and North have different width.

The peace bridge has proved itself a popular tourist area. The wooden bridge was built almost over-night to pave the path for those returning South Korean POWs after the Korean War. They only get one chance to pick, and those picked to remain in North Korea never came back.

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After the returning of South Korean POWs, a wall was erected to seal the border. The other side is the no man’s land.

Blessings decorated all over the wall, hoping for a unification of Korea.

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The little garden under the bridge, still frozen in March.

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A train that could be running on the railway going to North Korea.

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Entering the DMZ.

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This is used to be the U.S. military station building.

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A little museum marked the entrance of a tunnel dug by North Koreans in attempt to invade its southern neighbor.  The building has a museum, a video room talking about how South will eventually take over North, the tunnel itself, and a little souvenir shop. 

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Map of the surrounding area, which is right next to North Korea.

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Little sculpture in front of museum reminding us how much the Koreas want to be united.

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I can understand neither the Chinese or the English – mainly the second to the last line in both languages. It must mean something crazily painful in Korean.

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Our tour guide.

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If you have the time in the afternoon, you may also get into this modeled area.  These buildings sit right at the line, where the North and South get to sit down and talk.  Unfortunately I got a plane to catch that evening and don’t want to jeopardize the time

Chinese machine guns made in the 50s

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North Koreans used labor camp prisoners to dig the tunnel.

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A map of DMZ area, a 4 kilometer wide no-mans land in between North and South Korea.

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I thought there are bad English everywhere in Korea (just like in the rest of Asia), but never thought there could be bad Chinese as well.

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The tunnel that the North Koreans dug is sealed and heavily camera-ed. You are not allowed to take pictures while in there, but it’s just a very low-ceiling tunnel and you can see the layout from this picture. 

Apparently someone estimated with this tunnel, the North can move 30k soldiers into South per hour. Well… I could barely stand in that tunnel, and to run for a few dozen miles in a tiny tunnel with 30k others would sound terrible for any cluster phobic.

Next up, up the hill.

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On top of the hill there is a little observation deck.

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A group of seemingly new recruits took picture in excitement.

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From the observation platform you could see both the North and South Korean villages in the DMZ zone.  The South Korean village has been there for a while with a few residents. It is sets right by the huge South Korean flag,

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The housing developments in the DMZ area.

The North Korean flag pole is a few times taller than that of the South, but the village under it doesn’t have anyone living there. It served as a pure symbol for its effort in trying to populating the region on its side.

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However, a South Korean company founded a factory on the border with the North, to take advantage of their cheap labor. The North welcomed it in hope to boost its economy.  You can see the roaring factory and the relative more prosperous surrounding.

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A guard tower just on the other side of our observation deck.

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Another popular tourist destination is the newly built Dorasan Railroad Station, the last train station in South Korea before going to North Korea.  The North and South agreed to join the railroads so that South Korea will be able to connect its railroad with the rest of Euro-Asia continent.  Everything went smoothly, both sides set up railroad stations and joined the tracks.  The first train was scheduled, but the North cancelled the last minute, and now this train station marks the last station before going to North.

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Names of the donors for the stations. So many people want to see this happening.

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Map showing all the train stops before reaching the northern border.

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It is a working station that served as a half-museum.

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Two trains run through here everyday, one in the morning to bring tourists into the area, the other one in the afternoon to take the tourists out of the area.

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This is an international train station, that can serve trains that goes to the rest of the Eurasian continent. If North Korea agrees to join, trains from here can go as far as Portugal. A map envisioning where this train station will take us.

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But a year after its opening, the seats are still empty and spanking new.

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And the custom check point is empty.

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Ticket counter still working, but with not much business.

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The three dudes from my hostel.  I guess only dudes and me are stupid enough to travel around Korea in cold March.

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On our way out, we found a truck carrying goods from the DMZ zone South Korean factory that I have mentioned earlier.

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We came back to the Peace Bridge to drop some people off for the afternoon tour in the DMZ negotiation zone, meanwhile the tour guide pointed out that every year some North Koreans would come here to perform a traditional ceremony around the monument.

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You would see guard posts all along the way.

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Mountain range in North Korea that can be observed from the South.  This is the only window where we can see North Korea.

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Interesting looking building.

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North Korean housing dotted along the river.