On one layover in Seoul I decided to get out of the city and booked onto a tour to go and visit the DMZ.
The DMZ which is the shortened name is the demilitarised zone and is a border barrier that divides the Korean Peninsula roughly in half. The DMZ is a weapons free buffer zone between North and South Korea. It was created by an agreement between North Korea, the People’s Republic of China and the United Nations in 1953. The DMZ is 160 miles long, and about 2.5 miles wide.
There is a variety of tours you can book to visit the DMZ. We booked a half day tour through the hotel concierge which picked us up from our hotel at 8.30am, and drove straight to the DMZ which took approximately 40minutes. First we travelled to Imjingak which is only 4 miles from the Military Demarcation Line. This town was built in 1972 in the hope that someday unification would be possible. There are several sites to see here such as the Unification Bridge and the Dorasan Station which is the last station before North Korea.
We also visited secret tunnels dug by North Korea. Since 1974 several secret tunnels have been discovered crossing the military line. They are believed to have been planned as a military invasion or infiltration route and each tunnel is large enough for 30,000 soldiers to pass through in an hour. There is also the Dora Observatory which is a viewing point to peer over to North Korea.
The DMZ is probably one of the most eerie and strangest tourist attractions I’ve ever visited. It seemed really surreal being on the South Korean side of the border which seems like a different world looking over to the North Korean side.
The DMZ seems like a purpose built leisure park, then you look over to the other side which seems bleak and dreary. There was also really loud Korean music playing at one of the viewing points when I asked our guide why it was so loud she explained that it was to drown out the propaganda messages North Korea was blaring out from across the border.
There is also lots of messages and prayers written on notes and ribbons from South Koreans, visitors and North Koreans that have escaped the regime. This is really heartwarming to see such beautiful colours and messages in a dark tourism spot.
No trip to Seoul would be complete without a trip to the DMZ to understand the sensitivity and divide between the 2 nations of North and South Korea. It really is an eye opener.