Trip Start Sep 05, 2011
Trip End Nov 07, 2011

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Flag of Korea Rep.  , Seoul,
Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tuesday morning was an early start as we had pre-booked the DMZ tour. The Demilitarised zone (DMZ) is the area which lies between North and South Korea. We were very intrigued to go on this tour as little is known about North Korea and its dictatorship. The area around the DMZ has been turned into a tourist attraction with a number of sights/exhibitions.

The first stop of our tour was the area surrounding The Freedom Bridge. This bridge was used to free thousands of war prisoners following the Korean War. There is a giant bell at the site which was made using weapons which were used in the war. It is a symbol of peace. The remains of a steam train are also displayed. The train was badly damaged in the conflict and many bullet holes are clearly visible. The site is a memorial and a symbol of hope for the Korean people; it was quite moving to visit. 

The next stop on the tour was the 3rd infiltration tunnel. This was one of four tunnels found by the South Koreans that leads directly to Seoul from North Korea. The tunnel is small, dark and damp. It really puts the threat of an invasion into perspective. When the tunnels were first discovered the North Korean Government insisted that they had been built by South Korea, when this didn't work they painted them black and claimed that they had simply been mining for coal!

To make it harder for the South Korean army to find the tunnels the area was littered with land mines. As you drive along you can see the military personnel still looking for these mines at the side of the road. They believe they have only found a very small percentage so far. In response the Southern army have built giant concrete buildings which are filled with dynamite in order to protect the country should it be invaded. It was quite scary driving through this area!

The tour then took us to the Dora Observatory. From here you have a fantastic view of the border and can see North Korea. There is a village that you can see just across the border in North Korea, this is home to the world's largest flagpole. Apparently no one lives in this village and it is there just for show. Photographing is very restricted at the observatory you can only take pictures in one area behind a yellow line. Looking out over the DMZ, it does not look like an area which is in conflict. Instead, it has been used to create a haven for wildlife. There is no military equipment, simply a vast area of peaceful countryside.

The final sight on the tour was Dorasan Station. This train station could connect the South with the North. The station was restored back in 2002 when relations between the two countries were improving and they were hoping for unification. Unfortunately this was not to be and the it now lies dormant. The station acts a symbol of hope to the Korean people, hope that unification and peace can be found in the future. 

This tour was such a unique experience for us. It is interesting to see how the DMZ portrays the past, the present and the future of Korea. It was a "highlight" of our trip, but in a completely different way and for very different reasons than the other tourist attractions we have visited.
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