Sunday, February 28, 2010


This past weekend, we decided to take one of these recreational trips that are offered to the military on base. For a small fee, you pretty much get transportation and entrance fees covered, so we decided it would be a great opportunity to sign up for the DMZ trip. For those that aren't military, and up to date on the history between the North and South, this brief description is for you... for those that know what I'm talking about, head to the bottom of the post so you can check out all the photos!

After the outbreak of the Korean War, during the ceasefire in 1953, the DMZ was created as each side agreed in the armistice to move their troops back 2,000 m from the front line, creating this "zone" about 2.5 miles wide. The DMZ is a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula and acts as a "buffer" zone to North and South Korea (38th parallel). It's 155 miles long, and is the most heavily militarized border in the world. The Military Demarcation Line (MDL) goes down the center of the DMZ and indicates exactly where the front was when the agreement was signed. Since the armistice agreement was never followed by a peace treaty, the two Koreas are still technically at war.
Our first stop was at Imjingak Resort Park. It's located 7km to the south of the MDL
and is a unification and security tourist spot where people hang "wishes" (ribbons) for
unification, and remember the pain of the divided land. There is also a 21 ton bell of peace
which was made with the desire for peace, and the "Bridge of Freedom", which was named when
12,773 Korean prisoners of war returned from North Korea in 1953 and crossed over that bridge.

{the 21 ton bell}

{the wishes on ribbons for unification}

Our next stop was at Mt. Odu Observation Point. It is an observatory located at the northern edge of South Korea, where you can observe the life of North Korea. All through telescopes, and probably a clear day (which we didn't really have), you're supposed to be able to see Odu Mountain in Gaeseong, the statue of Kim Il-Seong, Gijeong-dong, the outskirts of Gaeseong City, a train tunnel (Jangdan Station), and Geumamgol (collective farm)... Jason and I just saw LOTS of land, with some workers on it, and a bunch of concrete buildings... that's about it!

{a look into North Korea}

After a delicious Korean lunch, we headed for a quick stop to Dora Mountain Station. It's the northernmost end of South Korea (700m away from the southernmost tip of the DMZ). There is a guidepost at Dora Mountain Station that indicates that there are 105 km to Pyeongyang (north) and 56 km to Seoul (south) which is seen as hope and expectation that Korea will not be divided forever.

{heading north or south?!}

{I made Jason pose as well}

{I had to get a photo on the train tracks heading North}

The Joint Security Area (JSA) was where we headed next. This was the part that Jason had been waiting for ALL day. He enjoyed the rest, but this was definitely the highlight of this trip for him. Panmunjeom is only 800m in diameter, and is designated as the JSA between the U.N. and North Korea (it is outside administrative control of South and North Korea). The U.N. and North Korea sides each operate 6 guard posts and 35 security guards reside inside. Security guards are forbidden to cross over to the opposing side's area... so we only saw North Korean soldiers in the distance (they spied on us with their binoculars).

{we were all smiley, even though it was supposed to be a serious/intimidating place}

{defending, us, the Americans that are here to visit}

{a closer look at the N. Korean soldier... can you see him?}

{Jason took a neat picture... a North Korean soldier in the back, and South Korean up front}

In the JSA, the Military Armistice Commission (MAC) holds secretary's meetings, joint duty officer's meetings, and general meetings for observation of the Armistice Agreement since it's signing. We were able to go inside the building designated for these meetings. Felt pretty honored.

{South Korean soldier-he was HUGE, and supposedly they have to fit certain qualifications}

On the way out, we were able to sneak a peak at the "Bridge of No Return"- appropriately named. If you go down it, you won't come back... half the bridge belongs to the south, and the other to the north.

{the "Bridge of No Return- you can see some white dogs that were electrocuted on the fence}

Our last stop on the trip, was at the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel. Only 44 km from Seoul, the third tunnel was discovered in 1978. Almost identical in structure to the other tunnels, it penetrates 435m south of the MDL at a point 4 km south of Panmunjeom, running through bedrock at a depth of about 73m below ground. Capable of moving a full devision (plus their weapons) per hour, it was evidently designed for a surprise attack on Seoul. The most recent tunnel (#4) was found in 1990... so we know they haven't given up on that form of attack. We unfortunately were not allowed to take pictures of the tunnel. I'm sure that if you googled it, you'd be able to find an image. We did however come across this wonderful sign, as we were walking around the area.

{take a close look-hopefully you can read it, if not, it says, "mine" inside a caution sign}

Overall, it was a phenomenal trip... very informative and loved seeing the history. I recommend it to any that have never been and are stationed here at Osan, and I know that any visitor that comes, will have to experience this tour as well.
Pin It!


  1. So interesting! Did you get to talk with any of the soldiers, or are they strictly just standing guard and aren't allowed to converse with you?

  2. no conversing, although I would have LOVED to!