Lily and I made it back to the base my college room-mate and his family are stationed at in order to visit the DMZ (Demilitarize Zone), which was high on my list of things to do. The best part is they had not visited this area either, so we got to do it with them for the first time.
For those of you not that familiar with the Korean War here is a short recap. The country was split in two after it was liberated from Japanese control at the end of WW2. The north half was administered by the Soviet Union, becoming communist, and the southern half by the USA. On June 25, 1950 North Korea invade South Korea and almost took the entire peninsula. A UN force (comprised of 21 countries, but 90% of the personnel was from the US) pushed back and almost took the entire peninsula also until the Chinese enter the war. Eventually the line was established at the 38th parallel and the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed on July 27, 1953. To this date there has not been a peace agreement signed and the two counties are technically still at war. This is evident with a semi state of readiness and gas masks located in many public places.
We drove the two hours from their base south of Seoul up to within several miles of the DMZ and arrived at 8am to get tickets when they opened at 9am (as tickets are limited). By getting tickets we were taken to see Tunnel #3, which is one of four tunnels South Koreans discovered the North Koreans had dug in order to invade. I am SO GLAD we were given hard hats to explore the tunnel, because it was only about five and half feet tall and I whacked my head hard several times. Once it was so loud people at the other end heard it. You can’t take photos in the tunnel, but I found one on the internet anyways. Haha. The next stop was at the Dora Observatory, which is only half a mile from the border. The final stop was a “village” that was really just a gift store.
After getting back from the tour we check out the Freedom Bridge, a locomotive that was in the DMZ for 50 years, and a bunker/museum. All of this, plus a gondola across the river and into the DMZ, is available even if you do not get tickets for Tunnel #3.
It was a very cool and eye opening half a day being that close to the North Korean border. Even Lily, who did not really learn about the Korean War in Mexico, was impressed and asked lots of questions. This should be on your must see if you come to South Korea!!!!