I’ve always been fascinated by and interested in North Korea. Maybe it’s because of the similar history that Germany shares with the separated Koreas. I’ve watched many amazing speeches from people who made it out of the north (list at the end of the post) and therefore, I absolutely had to visit the border and watch North Korea from afar – and this day finally came!
Here’s what it’s like to watch North Korea from afar at the DMZ:
Demilitarized Zone – DMZ
I decided to take a tour from Seoul City Tours since it’s a lot easier to get around by bus. They have a full day tour and a half day tour, which I opted for. I was picked up at 8:20 at Hongik University station (Hongdae) and we set off on our adventure. The tour’s itinerary goes as follows:
A) Half-Day Tour: 08:00 ~ 14:30 minimum Pax: 1
KRW 46,000p/p – KRW40,000p/p (This price is special price for online reservation ONLY)
- Hotel Imjingak Park
- Freedom Bridge
- The 3rd infiltration Tunnel
- DMZ Theater / Exhibition Hall
- Dora observatory
- Dorasan Viewpoint
- Dora Station
- Drop off at City Hall
Note: You need to bring your passport since there are checkpoints where South Korean soldiers enter the bus and take a look at your passport.
Imjingak Park and Freedom Bridge
Even though this is the first stop, I already got the eerie feeling here. Imjingak is a park that was made in 1972 for homesick refugees who fled North Korea during the Korean War (1950~1953). The Bridge of Freedom full with colored ribbons stating wishes for unification made this place especially unique. 13,000 prisoners of war were traded here at the end of the Korean War . The prisoners would was across the bridge to return to their homes both South and North. You can also see an old train and railway tracks destroyed during the war.
The 3rd Infiltration Tunnel
The second stop was this tunnel North Koreans dug into South Korean territory for attacking plans. It was discovered in 1978 after a North Korean refugee who gave away information of the location and the North Korean’s plans. The tunnel is 1,635 metres (1.0 mile) long, 1.95 m (6 ft 5 in) maximum high and 2.1 m (6 ft 11 in) wide. It was built to lead North Korean soldiers into the South for a surprise attack on Seoul. To this day, North Korea denies the construction of the tunnel and other 3 tunnels discovered in the South. There was no photography allowed in the tunnel itself, however it was a great experience. You can walk around 400 meters until you reach a barricade, one of three installed for safety by the South.
DMZ Theater / Exhibition Hall
Here, visitors can enjoy a short movie about how the Korean War started and how it ended. It also explains the tension between the South and the North and showed footage of different attacks made by the North on the South. This theater is located right next to the Third Tunnel.
This viewpoint lies on top of Mount Dora from where you get a close look to the North. Unfortunately, it was too foggy to see anything in the distance but on clear days, it’s possible to see the famous propaganda village in the DMZ as well as the city of Kaesong. I enjoyed this stop and will probably come back here to get a better look on a sunny day.
Dora Train Station
This was probably my personal highlight of the tour. Even though it is just a train station, this place has something very eerie and special about it. Various South Korean companies and people donated money to build this station as a symbol for unification. The newly set-up DMZ train from Seoul arrives here twice a day but other than that, no other trains come here. Dora Station will be the starting point of a railway route from the South into the North after the reunification.
North Korea – So Close But Yet So Far
I really enjoyed the tour and can highly recommend checking it out. The tour guide was a gem and the bus was comfortable. The time limits were all kept, which is very important if you need to catch a bus/train or have another appointment after the tour ends. The entire time, I was filled with an eerie and respectful feeling. You really get to understand how close North Korea is and how potentially dangerous this situation can be.
Would you like to visit the DMZ?
My Favorite Ted Talks about North Korea:
My Escape from North Korea | Hyeonseo Lee