Saturday, November 10, 2012

Visiting the Other Korea: Our trip to the DMZ

Visiting the DMZ was on my bucket list for my time here in Korea and this past week KEB (Korean Foreign Exchange Bank) helped me make it happen.  When I saw the offer on their Facebook page about a free trip to the DMZ for its customers,  I quickly sent an e-mail.  Although we weren't selected initially, we got the good news the next day that two others who had been selected couldn't make it, so we were in!

The tour was supposed to start at 8:00am Saturday morning and our first official stop after getting tickets and passing through the security check was the 3rd infiltration tunnel, one of three massive tunnels dug by the North Korean army. It was discovered at the end of the 70's (?) when a North Korean, upon escaping informed the ROK army.  Even though it was initially intended to be used to hurt South Korea, as our guide put it so gracefully, through tourism "we've made a lot of money thanks to the North Koreans, so thank you."

Mr. So, our funny tour guide.  "Did you say hello to the worms?"

Descending into the tunnel.  It's the height of a 25-story building below ground. And it was damp.

The hard hats aren't just to look cool, some parts of the tunnel are pretty low and we both hit our heads a couple of times.

It took a while to gather our group back together, but after that we were off to the Dora Observatory, and in my opinion the most interesting part of the tour.  From there, we could see into North Korea.  

"End of separation, beginning of unification."

Tourists looking out into the Hermit Kingdom, aka North Korea.

Taken from, this image shows you the view from the observatory.  My camera couldn't capture it nearly as well, but you can see the huge North Korean flag flying above a city/town.

After that we headed to Dora Station, a deserted train station that connects North & South Korea via rail.  According to our tour guide, a train used to run along the track once a day, Monday - Friday, during the last president's term, however the current president Myung-Bak Lee, put an end to that and many other factions of the Sunshine Policy, which encouraged trade between the two Koreas.

Poor soldier whose job is to take hundreds of pictures a day with annoying tourists. 

Considered the 'First Station to the North' rather than the last station in the south.
I can't go a post without showing off how gorgeous fall in Korea is.  Despite being in a sombre place that weather was amazing and the colors of the trees just incredible.
Although we ran out of time and couldn't view a movie about the DMZ nor tour the Imjingak Park (although it was okay because DH and I had seen it before), the tour ended well with an organic buffet lunch provided free for us in Paju.  Thank you KEB Bank and Grace Travel for the chance and for helping me add another great memory of Korea to my list.  

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