A Fractured Country: My Visit to the DMZ
Last month I was pretty busy. Through bizarre circumstances I landed the chance to visit Korea, and there was no way I was turning it down. Of many interesting locations, two places of interest stuck out to me and I feel that they are worthy of sharing. These are the War Memorial of Korea and the Joint Security Area in the DMZ (Korean Demilitarized Zone).
The War Memorial of Korea
First off the War Memorial is more of a dual purpose building. The name implies that the memorial would be made of mostly statues and plaques but it also functions as a full fledged museum. As you can see in the picture below, the memorial site is expansive.
Beside the building we can see that there is a large collection of military vehicles and planes from the Korean War onward. I have only seen some of these machines in the video game Wargame: Red Dragon so it was a real treat to get a good look at them in person.
Inside the entrance to the memorial building was a table stacked high with copies of a Korean War book, donated by a (clearly) patriotic Korean. It describes every major event that occurred through each day of the war. An added bonus was that there was no entry fee to the building.
Among the weapons we found was an M16 that had Korean roll marks on it.
I apologize for the terrible quality, the glass made it difficult to take a more clear photo. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting piece of history.
They also had some Korean Land Warrior program sort of display too.
The Korean Demilitarized Zone
Next up is the DMZ trip. There are multiple companies that do these tours and it takes up the entire day. Our first stop was Imjingak. The most interesting parts to see were the wall of ribbons from Koreans separated from their families by the border, and the rather unusual looking North Korean steam locomotive engine.
The Dora Observation Post
From here, you can almost see a bunch of North Korean propaganda buildings. I say almost because the area is smoggy as hell. The signs do a decent job of displaying what’s out of sight. From here you could faintly hear loudspeakers with North propaganda music and chants.
Since they wouldn’t let us take pictures in the 3rd Tunnel area (North Korean attempt at an under the border invasion tunnel) next up is Dorasan Station.
The purpose of the station was so after reunification of the two halves of the country, a train station was ready to go for transportation between the two sides. It was constructed in 2002 and has a railroad tie signed by good old George “Dubya”, as he was the American president at the time. The station has been waiting for reunification for about 15 years now.
Finally we have the main attraction, the Joint Security Area.
After the border was created, the North and South decided on an area where peace talks would be conducted. This area would be exactly on the border with both side’s buildings occupying the compound. South Korean/American in blue, North Korean in tan/gray. After a small PowerPoint by a few US Army personnel we were put onto buses and transported through some woods to the compound. No pictures were allowed along the way. Once we arrived at the compound, we were told to form two columns on stairs immediately outside of the JSA. After it was explained to us we were not to take pictures of the North Korean observation building to our right upon entry, we were asked if we had any questions. The tour group column on our left was a US Marine group and, I am not shitting you, the guy beside me asked “Hey, ya’ll got any crayons up there? I’m starving.” I don’t think I’ve ever tried any harder in my life to stifle laughter.
Onto the compound.
The conference building labeled “T2” is where every peace talk has been held so far between the two countries. It is exactly halfway between the two and you will see just to the right of it there is a small concrete divider. The Korean men assigned to guard the area do so in two year intervals and are there on day long shifts. How absolutely horrifying. You’ll notice that they are fairly tall for Koreans and they do in fact deliberately pick the taller men to represent their side.
What an enjoyable trip that was!
If you liked what you saw here, comment below and leave any questions you might have about my trip to Korea. Until next time. -Rybec