I was told by many that the USO tour of the DMZ is the best, yet I don’t think I know anyone who went on another tour…

Anyway, you leave Seoul at 7:30, so you should get there between 7:00-7:15 for check-in.

Next you take a bus to Camp Bonifas which is the start of the JSA. There is a video presentation which gives you the history of the Korean War and DMZ. Below is the history with my photos from the tour.

By September 15 1950 future-North-Korea had pushed future-South-Korea to Busan, which was when future-South-Korea received support and pushed future-North-Korea to the Yalu River which was when China joined in and pushed back future-South-Korea to the International Cease-Fire Line on the 27th of July 1953. The JSA was established in 1952. The Military Demarcation Line (MDL) is the actual boarder, but the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is for 2 kilometers in both directions (north and south).

Within the DMZ there are two villages: Taesongdong (Freedom Village) for the South and Gijungdong (Propaganda Village) for the North. Taesongdong has a population of about 200 and the people who live there grow rice, don’t pay taxes and the men don’t have to do military service (but many do out of honor). Gijungdong does not have a full time population, but the military has seen people come in for repairs. South Korea gave Taesongdong a 100 meter tall flagpole as a gift, so North Korea gave Gijungdong a 160 meter flagpole to compete and say they are better. We drove past Taesongdong (you need approval to go in) and could see Gijungdong from one of the Checkpoints.

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There is a Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC) which has the Czech Republic, Poland, Switzerland and Sweden involved. After the collapse of the USSR and many changes in the Czech Republic and Poland, North Korea lost confidence in the NNSC. Also, the Czech Republic left 100% and Poland left 50% (meaning they show up sometimes). We did not visit this.

The Bridge of No Return is where POWs were returned at the end of the war. People were given the choice of which side to go to: say where they were or go to the other side. Whatever they chose the must stick with, as there is no going back. the UN returned 82,471 people and North Korea returned 12, 457 people.

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In 1976 the Axe Murder Incident happened. This was because of a UN Checkpoint (near a bridge toward South Korea) that was surrounded by 3 North Korean Checkpoints and could not be seen by the next nearest UN Checkpoint because of a tree grove. Many UN forces showed up to chop down trees, but there were also many NK forces and the NK soldiers killed many of the UN soldiers. Later, a huge troop came to cut down all the trees, and now the further Checkpoint is not used because everything can be seen from the first one. At the National Museum of Korea there is a diorama of this. Currently, there is a memorial stone there.

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In 1984 there was a Soviet tour and one person decided to try to run across to the Southern side of the JSA. Soldiers from both sides jumped into action and many died but the Soviet defector lived and was no longer living the USSR.

After the presentation, we went to the Freedom House and were able to take pictures outside. The Freedom House was built by South Korea as a place for South Korean and North Korean families to meet if they were separated by the war. However, North Korea has not ever allowed this to happen. There is a North Korean building called the recreation building, which has nothing inside but cots and is where NK soldiers say if there is a meeting inside the Freedom House. They make rude gestures at the South Korean and American soldiers. They have named it the Monkey House.

Caribbean Bay + DMZ + Seoul 044Below you can see the set up of the view from the back of the Freedom House. The middle building is the MAC building, which is having construction done so we could not go inside. The soldiers dressed in dark colors facing one another are North Korean, and they do that so they do not defect. The one facing the MAC building is doing so to stop people who try to run over before they reach the two watching one another. If there is no tour they go inside. They are all trained in Tae-kwon-do and have weapons. The soldiers facing them in gray uniforms are South Korean soldiers, as are those in the camouflage. 96% of the UN soldiers are South Korean.

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After the presentation and tour we left the JSA and saw more of the DMZ.

Next we went to an observation point, where you could not see much because it was gray. There was another video presentation which didn’t tell us anything new (at least I don’t think so, many people from other tours were talking).

Next we went to the 3rd Tunnel. There was supposed to be a video presentation there but the line was too long–kind of annoying after paying so much (we pay more than the other groups). The tunnel was okay….dark and wet inside so I can’t imagine many soldiers actually would go though it and be able to fight once they got though. After a 358 meter walk down to the tunnel, 265 meter walk in the tunnel we got to the 3rd blockade where you can see though a hole to the 2nd blockade. It used to be manned but now CCTV watches it. There is a water tank between the 3rd and 2nd blockade which, if the 2nd blockade is broken, will break and allow the water to flow downhill. Between the 1st blockade and 2nd blockade is concrete. It is 73 meters underground and 1635 meters long. There are 20 tunnels total, but only 4 have been found. The 3rd is the most dangerous.

Next we went to Dorasan Station which is supposed to be the Starting Point of the Transcontinental Railroad. This would have been put into use on June 14 2003, but never has been. It is 56 kilometers from Seoul and 205 kilometers from Pyeongyang. Once the Trans Korea Railway extends to the Trans Siberian Railway and the Trans Chinese Railway South Korea plans to emerge as a distribution hub of Northeast Asia. This way to North Korea!

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