DMZ Made Me Read History

Posted on August 20, 2011


After the news of my resignation reached my American Boss, he came to my station and asked me, “Why Korea?” I just stared at him and smiled, like I always do when I don’t want to explain. Then, he started talking to me about Korea, specifically the DMZ.  It was just one of the several occasions when he would come to my station and talk about Korea and his experience as a soldier here. This is how I got curious with DMZ.

The Korean Demilitarized Zone, ironically, is considered the most heavily fortified border in the world. It was even described by the former US President Clinton as the world’s scariest place.

Imagine how excited I was when I received an email saying that I’ve been selected to join a tour in the DMZ. I was hoping that it would include the Joint Security Area, wherein you would see North and South Korean soldiers  face to face. Unfortunately, it was not part of the itinerary. Still, I was very willing to go, especially that it is a sponsored tour.

It should have been a two-day tour but it was cancelled on the second day due to the heavy rain.

I didn’t know why we were there until Minister Yoo of Environment mentioned in her speech that it’s the anniversary of the Armistice Agreement signed on July 27, 1953. The signing took place in the Military Demarcation Line, which is in the middle of DMZ.

First Stop: Imjingak

Imjingak, they said, is the only place in DMZ where you can go without passing through security check points.  It is crowded during holidays like Chuseok/ Korean Thanksgiving because South Koreans who have friends and families in the North visit the place as a tribute.

The tour organizers prepared several activities like shirt printing and message writing on a wood palette which we hung later on in the Imjingak Separation’s Wall

This bridge across Imjin River connects South and North Korea.

These ribbons are written with prayers and hopes for the reunification of Korea.

The train was used in delivering supplies during the war but after it caught on fire it was abandoned in now what is known as the DMZ.

Next Stop: Dorasan Observatory

This is the nearest observatory to see North Korea from the South. Here, we were briefed regarding DMZ and how they monitor the place. Inside the hall, there were signs saying that taking pictures is not allowed. My friend said that if it wasn’t for the thick fog, we could have seen the North Korean flag pole from where we were seating. Probably it’s also because of the fog why they did not call our attention when we took some pictures inside the hall.

Outside the briefing hall, there were binoculars which we can use to view parts of North Korea like the Propaganda Village. A few steps back from the binoculars is a line indicating until what point you can take pictures facing North Korea.

Last Stop: Dorasan Station

This had been the most interesting place for me because I was unaware of it. The trains were used for the delivery of materials and finished products to and from Kaesong Industrial Complex.  It was operational until December 2008 when North Korea suddenly decided to close the border crossing.

The Trans Eurasian Railway Network was promising.

Connected yet divided. This is what I thought when I saw these railroad tracks.

Our day ended with us having dinner while watching this traditional dance performed gracefully by the local dance troupe and then me sleeping in the traditionally-styled but creepy room.

Obviously, we were not able to maximize the tour. Nevertheless, I learned a lot from it that it made me start researching about Korea’s History and the  milestones that might lead towards their reunification. I can’t help but feel sad on how a proxy war divided Koreans but then again, we can’t lose hope.

Posted in: Korea, Others