Korea DMZ: North – South Divide in Photos

Posted by on Jun 9, 2017 in Destinations, Korea, Travel Photo Thursday | 16 comments

Korea DMZ

This week we are roaming around the Korea DMZ, that swath of land that separates North Korea from South Korea and came into being when the Korean War Armistice was signed way back in 1953. Welcome to Week 332 (6/8/2017) of Travel Photo Thursday. Join me on a tour of the North – South divide in photos.

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I initially took this tour back in 2001 or 2002. I know it was before digital cameras (or just before they came to market). I did take photos that day, and I had them developed, but they’ve disappeared during one of my moves over the years. I was anxious to see what was still the same and what had changed, and if I can still brag about having a good memory!

I am always surprised that the DMZ is only an hour outside of Seoul. This is why we foreigners get a little antsy when the big guy up North starts his saber rattling. Our first stop of the day was the Imjingak Unification Park,  in the city of  Paju on the banks of the Imjin River.

 

Korea DMZ: North South Divide

Korea DMZ: Imjingak Unification Park

The first thing I noticed in this area of the Korea DMZ is there were no guards in sight. This was a very different scenario from the last time I visited. I’m sure the guards still exist, but they’re probably in a room somewhere watching on closed circuit TV.

The wooden bridge in this photo is the Freedom Bridge. This is the bridge South Koreans crossed after the war when returning from North Korea. Now, you can walk along for a short distance before you come to a barricade.

 

Korea DMZ: North South Divide

Directly in front of the observation deck is the Gyeongui Train Line which was destroyed during the Korean Conflict in 1950. Visitors pay a small admission charge of about $2.00 US. to see a railcar that was destroyed during the conflict and is now a Cultural Asset. I don’t remember this display from my last visit, and perhaps it was added since 2002.

 

Korea DMZ: North South Divide

 

Peace ribbons and barbed wire are a little eerie. Minus the wire, this reminds me of the peace ribbons in Hiroshima.

 

Korea DMZ: North South Divide

Korea DMZ: North South Divide

 

Korea DMZ: North South Divide

Korea DMZ: North South Divide

 

There are also monuments, war equipment, and photos depicting the Korean conflict in various locations at Imjingak. To be honest, I have seen so many war displays over the years I don’t pay much attention to them these days. For me, it’s being able to look out across the Imjin River knowing that land I see on the other side is forbidden (weird eh?).

Korea DMZ: 3rd Infiltration Tunnel

Our next stop was the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel. Discovered in 1975, this is the third of four tunnels discovered under the border between the North and South. Built by the North Koreans, it’s primary (and probably only purpose) was to invade the South.

Korea DMZ

Entering this building takes you to the tunnel walkway. No cameras or cellphones are allowed. It takes approximately 10 minutes to walk to the end of the tunnel where you can look through a small cutout window into a North Korean bunker. Check out this link for photos and how the tunnel was discovered. The North Koreans painted some of the tunnel walls to look like a coal mine (sneaky, don’t you think?) Oh, and I was happy for the bright yellow construction hat. I managed to crack my head not once but three times during our little stroll.

The last time I was here if my memory is serving me well, visitors rode a rail car down into the tunnel and only walked the last 4 or 5 minutes. Also, at the end of the tunnel, and the closest point to North Korea, visitors came face to face with a North Korean soldier.  I remember that well, and it was exciting and a little scary to be so close to this ramrod straight guard with a gun in his hand.

Then it was on to the Dora Observatory with excellent views of North Korea and the Korea DMZ.  On my prior visit, there were lots of guards around, and you could only take photos within in a restricted area. The guards are no longer visible, and visitors can click way from anywhere on the observation deck. If you’re ever on the deck looking out at North Korea and you think you’re being watched you are right. Within minutes of our group’s arrival, loud music was wafting from the North Korean side. The regime wants visitors to know that they know company has arrived.

 

Korea DMZ

Korea DMZ

 

Our final stop of the day was just a short ride away at the Dorasan Train Station.  These tracks could eventually open up a route from South Korea through the North and end in Russia. Right now the tracks are empty, and the only sign of life inside the station is the souvenir shop. This is another spot where the last time I was here there were loads of guards. There’s not one in sight these days. I even remember getting into trouble here with my camera. I took a shot facing North Korea, and back in 2001/2002 that was a huge NO NO.

Korea DMZ: Dorasan Station

 

Korea DMZ: North South Divide

 

This trip to the Korea DMZ left me feeling both empty and frustrated. In the years since I’ve visited a lot has changed, but the situation between the North and South is fundamentally the same. The countries remain technically at war, and the North Korean regime seems intent on continuing the conflict. (IMO) unification remains a long way off.

Have you been to the Korea DMZ, or would you visit if you had the chance? Let us know in the comments.

This tour was organized by Seoul Hiking. If you’re looking for a well-organized budget friendly tour, this is it.

Please welcome our co-hosts this week: Jan from Budget Travel Talk Ruth from Tanama Tales Rachel from Rachel’s Ruminations

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16 Comments

  1. Such an interesting location, and not one I have any desire to visit these days. I appreciate this post so I can get an inside glimpse. Curious, when you say you got into trouble for taking the shot of North Korea, what kind of trouble. I once had a guard stand over me in Greece and watched whilst I deleted a photo I wasn’t supposed to take.

    • Hi Rhonda,

      That’s pretty much what happened to me as well. I took a photo looking towards the NK border, and that was a big No No. I pretended that I hadn’t actually taken the photo and the guards believed me. I took it with a film camera, so if they had wanted to, they could have confiscated the film.

  2. Thank you for this incredibly interesting post especially with the world’s eyes on North Korea and our fears for the future. The peace ribbons on the barbed wire is absolutely incredibly eerie even just seen in a photo. I would love to share this photo on Facebook if I may? Thank you for this look at the DMZ and wishing you safe travels.

    • Hi Jill,

      Sorry I have been so long to respond. I am at the end of my semester so loads of marking going on. Please do share the photo on Facebook. 🙂

  3. What an interesting visit! I didn’t realize it was that close to Seoul. Thank you for this virtual tour. I most likely would want to visit if I was in the area.

    • Hi, Mary! Oh yes, we are very close to the DMZ. When I first arrived in Korea, I lived in a small town even closer. The town was close to quite a few beaches. All of the beaches were (and probably still are) enclosed with barbwire. If you weren’t off the beach by sunset, you would be locked in for the night. Now, that would have been scary!

  4. I could imagine feeling very uncomfortable being in close proximity to North Korea. This was such an interesting post Nancie. Thanks for the insight.

    • Hi, Kathy,

      I’ve lived here for so long that it doesn’t bother me, except of course when the young fella decides to test his missiles. That’s been happening way too often lately.

  5. I can say I understand your feeling since my knowledge about Korea is very limited. However, I understand the desire for peace and unity. It is something people from Latin American countries have desired for a long time. I would like to visit the area since I would like to get a better understanding of the current situation. #TPThursday

    • Hi, Ruth. It is an interesting area to visit. These days it’s hard to understand what’s going on. I’m not sure either side really wants peace and unity.

  6. No wonder expats get antsy when North Korea starts firing weapons – I never thought for a minute it was so close to Seoul! Very interesting post and frustrating that nothing much has changed.

    • Hi, Jan. Exactly! If Mr. NK decided to lob a bomb at Seoul, it doesn’t have far to go!

  7. Fascinating post Nancie, and I was especially intrigued by the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel. I followed the link provided and can see why a hard hat would be necessary. The discovery of a tunnel with soldiers waiting to invade South Korea would have be unsettling to say the least, especially since it took a couple of decades to find it! Such a contrast between the peace ribbons and rolls of barbed wire and it must be strange to look out at a country that remains isolated and closed off to the world.

    • Hi, Anita. It is strange and even stranger when they announce that they know people are looking at them by playing music. I have read somewhere there could be more tunnels. Who knows?

  8. I was interested in visiting the DMZ but was solidly voted down by the rest of the family. I had no idea that Seoul was that close to the border. With all the showing off that the North Koreans have been doing lately, I can see why people are so nervous. I expected the DMZ to be more of a barren wasteland. That photo from the Dora Observatory, though, looks very lush and green… not somewhere to go for a hike, though!

  9. Fascinating look at a weird in-between place. I’d maybe go there, but I certainly wouldn’t have any interest in getting any closer to North Korea than that!

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