On June 25, 1950, the (North) Korean People's Army crossed the 38th parallel, with the war aim of peninsular reunification under their political system. The war continued until July 27, 1953, when the United Nations Command, the Korean People's Army, and the Chinese People's Volunteer Army signed the Korean War Armistice Agreement. Since that time the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) has separated the North and South."
This is the last passenger train to have gone to North Korea from the South. They are currently building tracks to go all the way again, and the South side is already built.
In fact... why don't we go on those tracks right now. Because both countries want unification (even though it is quite impossible right now), they have already built railroad tracks to someday carry passengers to and fro. Here is the train station sign... A little blurry, but the left arrow says "Pyongyang"... the capital of North Korea.
Here comes the train to the DMZ!!!
So now we are in the DMZ. There is one town of about 500 people that live in the DMZ. Because these people are not technically citizens of South Korea, they don't have to pay tax or go into the 2 year mandatory military service. One of the first things you notice is that there is razor wire fence EVERYWHERE! It's to keep people from crossing but more importantly, this is because any place beyond the roads and farming (they actually farm rice there too) is a land mine field. Scary! I couldn't take pictures of this, but I was warned not to wander off (in Korean, then translated by Sohee). Taken on the train... this is one of the many military posts along the DMZ:
While in the DMZ we toured one of the tunnels. South Korea discovered 4 tunnels built by North Koreans. The purpose is believed to be an invasion route for the North Korean army, although the North has denied this and told them it was for coal mining. It's an obvious lie and in the tunnel you can even see black spray paint that they used to try and cover it up. More information at : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_Demilitarized_Zone#Incursion_tunnels
I went to the 3rd tunnel. I wasn't allow to take photos in the tunnel. So here is one outside the tunnel. Everyone has to wear helmets because the tunnel is about 5'8. Custom fit for Asian size. I suppose.
Outside the tunnel, there is a museum with a few artifacts from the DMZ, we watched this 15 min presentation that was really interesting... but, it basically unification propaganda by the South on how the DMZ now represents "peace" and all that. I wasn't really buying it.
Then there were more Unification type ornaments everywhere. Here is a good one:
Yeah, I'm pushing the world back together because Communism and Democracy go really well together. :) .
We then headed to a military base where you can actually view North Korea. Photographs are tricky here, because I am given a line. If I step over the line and shoot a couple of frames, those military dudes will bust my camera.
It was extremely cloudy that day, and because we are above sea level and kind of in mountain areas, I couldn't get really good photos. The picture below is the tallest flagpole in the world... It's in North Korea and bears the North Korean Flag.
Ok... So you can't see anything. Let me try again.
Yeah, it just looks like a foggy pole and you can't even make out the colours of the flag. Well just look at this then... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Gijeong-ri_Flag.jpg
So anyways, we then ate some food then went home. I took a photo of the train station in the DMZ. George W. Bush was here in 2002 when this station was finished being built. As of now, you still can't take a train into North Korea. Even though it indicates everywhere that someday you will be able to take this train to London. Yeah. That won't be for a while.
So at this station, you can also get your passport stamped. It's not a North Korean passport stamp, but more of a DMZ stamp indicating you are in the middle of nowhere. The top stamp indicates that the train goes to Pyongyang.
The tour was a little disappointing as I didn't get really close to the North Korea. I think I'll go on the JSA tour next time without Sohee so I can get some photos of North Korean Guards. I also want to pick up some North Korean Soju (alcohol), currency, and some other touristy stuff.
By the way, some of you might ask if I actually can go to North Korea. Yes, I can. But I have to go through China. It has some cool and exciting things to see, and maybe someday I'll even go, but when you get down to the nuts and bolts... It's not a pleasant place to visit. You should see this guys blog about it...
Anyways, I was very humbled by this experience. It's hard to believe that I was in Seoul enjoying the night life, the freedom the safe streets, advanced technology, etc.... and just 1.5 hours north is a 3rd world country where people are starving on the streets and getting executed publicly for practising religion or saying anything bad about the gov't. It is quite bizarre and extraordinary that something like this exists in our world... a 3rd world country resides right beside a 1st world and neither side can do anything about it.
So, It will be exciting to go back on the more "Dangerous" tour. But for now, I gotta go to Thailand. I leave in 4 hours. GTG!