My Mom and I too a USO tour to the DMZ. DMZ is demilitarized zone that is 4KM wide and runs the span of the entire Korean Peninsula. It seperates North Korea and South Korea (2KM on each) and was formed as a part of the armistice at the end of the Korean War.
Another fact for you history buffs...there was never actually a declaration that ended the Korean War, but an armistice that was signed for a "cease fire." This was in the mid 1950's, so for 60 years, the Korean Peninsula has been at a cease fire...well, not completely a cease fire on the North Korean's side, unfortunately.
Also, just to clarifiy because there seems to be a lot of confusion amongst Americans on who fought who in the Korean war. The American troops supported South Korea in their fight against North Korea. This was not America fighting South Korea. I believe that China and Russia helped to support North Korea, but someone that is better on Korean history can correct me if I am wrong on that.
All along the tour, we were escorted by a JSA- American Military guy. After the briefing at the base where we were asked to sign away our lives, we went onto the area that is right in the middle of the DMZ and is literally a small building that sits 1/2 on South Korea and 1/2 on North Korea. Honestly, the conference table in the middle, where negotiations are handled, sits 1/2 on South Korea and 1/2 on North Korea.
The blue building on the left is the one we went in where negotiations are held. We are on the South Korean side here. The grey buidling in the background belongs to North Korea and we could see North Korean guards standing out front of the building. We were warned not to make any verbal or non- verbal gestures torwards the North Koreans, as not to have any reason for provocation.
Inside the blue building. Woman across the table is in North Korea. I am in South Korea taking the picture...
These are South Korean military hand-selected for this post at the JSA. I was told they are extremely tough and have highest honors in Tae Kwon do. We were not allowed to get within 2 ft of them, as we were told they would take us out. They always stand at attention with fists clenched and have sunglasses to hide all emotion.
This is known as the Bride of No Return. At some point after the Korean War, there were some people that were given the choice to leave North Korean and return to South Korea, but if they did, they would never be allowed to return.
And...for the tunnel. This is amazing. There are four tunnels that have been found over the past 40 years, where North Korean has dug tunnels underground into South Korea. This one was about 1 mile long. We were not allowed to take pictures of the tunnel inside, but we wore hard hats because the tunnels were not very tall and you easily hit your head. South Korea believes there are probably more of these tunnels and it is the plan of North Korea to feed troops into South Korea through these tunnels.
Back to safety in South Korea...bulgogi for lunch for mom and Bi-Bim Bap for me.
Dorasan Station is the last station of the South Korean railway line before going into North Korea. It was in use for a long time, until an incident a few years ago. Then North Korea refused to let any trains enter from South Korea anymore. They are hoping they can reconnect these lines soon.
The significance is this...South Korea is on the southern side of this peninsula connected to mainland China by North Korea, where they cannot access any other land unless they use a boat or fly. Trains are excellent means of commerce, etc and if they could connect the South Korean railroad to once again ride north through North Korea, they could then connect to the Chinese and Siberian railways and be able to reach mainland Europe by train. Currently, everything is by sea and air.
I think all South Koreans one day hope for the reunification of the Korean Peninsula. For the well-being and safety of Koreans, our American military based here in Korea, their family and all of us, I hope for peace and reunification of Korea as well.
If only for a history lesson, go to the DMZ. It really is amazing.
Since this 4km of land has been desolate for 60 years, it has become these are where they is a lot of natural vegitation and wildlife. I thought it was strange how the museum was talking about the DMZ as this wonderful semi-wildlife preserve. It is basically a scrimmage line...I know it is partly America's doing in creating this border after WWII to begin with, but I it is hard to think of the DMZ in a beautiful way.