this past saturday i had the opportunity to go the DMZ--demilitarized zone. i went with liz and two of her friends visiting from indiana (sarah and marlise). i had to wake up at 4:30am and be at the USO office by 7:00am. in case you dont know me well: i dont do mornings. but we made it, despite me not having my passport, liz and sarah not having collared shirts and marlise having opened toed shoes. :)
i sat in a window seat on our way up. we went along the han river all the way north. i started noticing on the way up that there was barbed wire running along the gated shore. and then there were military posts every mile or so. the later explanation we got is that the han is also the imjin river...the border river between north and south... ...
so anyways, we got up to camp bonifas, which is the last military base outside of the DMZ. there we got briefed on the history and current situation. and what was expected of us. it was really interesting to hear about the level of security and day to day intensity of their jobs up there. then we got on military buses and began our journey into the dmz. the first thing we camp upon was a blockade that is set up so that tanks cannot come through. there was A LOT of vegetation! i dont know why i was so surprised by it. i guess i hadnt really thought about it that much. but i think its what scared me most. i mean, when we were on the bus we couldnt see anything except directly in front of us. nothing has been cleared in over 50 years... finally we came out of that and were able to see the south korean village...the freedom village, or taeseong-dong.
then we got to the JSA--joint security area. we got off the buses and filed in two lines through a building to 'the line.' the MDL--military demarcation line. i was at the end of the end of the line. so when i was finally able to see anything, i realized i was staring at north korea. kinda fun, eh? there were 2 ROK--republic of korea (the good guys)--soldiers on the sides of our group. a UN soldier giving us the tour and 3 more ROK soldiers down on the line in front of us. we could only see 1 DPRK--democratic people's republic of korea (bad guys)--soldier. he was a bit freaked out by all 90 of us tourists and i got a good picture of him with his binoculars checking us out. we took some pictures and then walked into T-2. its the middle "temporary" building set up by the UN where all armistice talks are held. there were 2 ROK soldiers in here too. they locked the n korea door so we were safe. this was my chance to stand on the MDL and IN NORTH KOREA!
we left the JSA and went to the third tunnel. yes...third. because they've found 4 in total of n korea trying to spy/invade. the tunnel was intense. we walked straight down for uhm...at least 15 min. oh and we had to wear yellow hard hats. then we walked through the tunnel for another 15 min...apparently n koreans are shorter than americans bc dude, it was a LOW ceiling. when we got to the end there was a door. and we could look through a window to see another door which was the MDL quite a bit underground. then we turned around and went back the way we came. that was quite hard. quite. couldve used my lost inhaler at that point, lol.
then we watched a movie about all the tunnels and all the assassination attempts and all the post armistice agreement signing events...crazy. the DPRK military is a bit intense and insane.
after lunch we headed to an observation post. it was on a cliff so we could see quite a bit of n korea. we could see gijeong-dong, the north korean propaganda village from there. with their ridiculously large flag (30 meters wide). and tons of statues/monuments of kim il-seong and kim jeong-il. we werent allowed to take pictures except for behind a stupid yellow line. so my pictures didnt exactly turn out. but i saw it. should be good enough, right?
after this we went back to camp bonifas and got back on our bus back to seoul. when we got back, we went into the korean war memorial museum. it was incredibly interesting as well. that day was seriously one of the coolest experiences of my life. ...sorry i wrote in such detail. but it's that cool to me.