It’s been way too long since I’ve posted here, so I’ll return to posting not with Taiwan, but with photos from a place that is a bit more fast moving and hectic – South Korea.
Today’s post is about the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and Military Demarcation Line (MDL). This region is a must-see for anyone wanting to visit and understand Korea, though you must go through a usually expensive (but reasonably priced) tour. With the right passport, you can book a trip through the USO or other organization that enters through Camp Bonifas, the joint US Army and Republic of Korea base situated near the border. The ticket is filled with a waiver notifying you that “The visit to the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom will entail entry into a hostile area and possibility of injury or death as a direct result of enemy action,” and you pay about 90 US dollars for the ability to visit.
I’m not going to give a specific account of what happens as you can find plenty of these that are very well written all over the web. Here are some photos though – to my surprise, I was able to use my telephoto lens and was generally pretty free to shoot photos of the interesting stuff, though there were some restrictions on when and what direction the camera was pointing. Unfortunately – or fortunately if you ask my mother and wife – not much happened on the Northern side of the border that day, but here is an interesting account including some interesting sword rattling on both sides. While it was a quiet day, it was also a beautiful day in terms of weather and visibility, which made the second part of the tour great.
Above: the lone visible North Korean guard standing his post at the Panmun Gak, the main, iconic building on the North Korean side of the Joint Security Area (JSA). According to our tour guide (a US Army military policeman), there was a second guard inside the tinted glass taking photos of our tour group. Notice the boarded window to the right.
Above: various shots of Republic of Korea (South Korea) soldiers standing guard. The soldier at bottom left guards the door to North Korea. On the bottom right, the soldier is standing half-exposed to keep cover in the (hopefully unlikely) scenario of shots being fired across the border. All are standing at a modified Tae Kwon Do stance. The soldier on top is actually the geographic border of the two sides while inside the treaty room. You can see this better in the next photo.
Above: the soldier shown above straddles the border at the main UN conference table.
Above: Republic of Korea soldiers stand guard at the JSA.
Above: a guardpost on the border.
Above: the “propaganda village” as seen from the South. Apparently, this village is fake. It was built in order to show people how prosperous the North is and why people should defect north. It is called propaganda village as it acts as a Potemkin Village that used to spout out propaganda on giant speakers. The flag pole is famous as its the largest in the world at 160 meters tall and was built after a bit of sabre rattling between the two sides in the art of flagpole construction.
Above: some detail of the propaganda village. A 100% zoom will show some (pixelated) glimpses of life like people airing dirty laundry – but I can confirm that it was eerily quiet.
Above: Dorasan Station, the last Korean rail station before heading north. It was briefly reused for freight reasons and there were plans for commuter trains to move north, but these plans were reversed. This station is in an area that is the furthest north civilians can go without having to cross the MDL, or Military Demarcation Line, which limits civilian movement due to military concerns.