This weekend Katie, Alissa and I went to the DMZ. DMZ stands for de-militarized zone. It's the area between North and South Korea. I have wanted to visit since I've been here, and I'm so glad I did! I learned a lot and it was an amazing experience. One day it probably won't exist anymore, and I'm glad I'll get to say I saw it when it did.
The first thing we did was tour the joint security area (JSA) with an American soldier. The JSA is all the buildings North and South Korea share with each other and other countries when they need to have talks. The Korean soldiers that guard this area are the best of the best. They stand in this ROK ready position - it's a variation of a taekwando stance. They wear sunglasses so the enemy can't read their facial expressions.
We are ROK ready too :)
This is us standing in North Korean territory
We were allowed to take pictures with the soldiers, but we couldn't touch them or move any furniture.
The middle of the table is the dividing line. The left side of the table/room belongs to South Korea, and the right side belongs to North. The soldier told us while I was standing on the right side, and I think my heart stopped beating for a second.
Blue buildings belong to South Korea and gray buildings belong to North. Even though the DMZ is technically shared, there are areas that South Koreans can't go and areas that North Koreans can't go. When there are meetings both countries guard the blue buildings, so the soldiers have to stand about a foot away from their enemy and stare into their face.
North Korean soldier watching us. The glare in the window to his left is a camera that was recording us. The American told us when it was ok to take pictures and where we could aim the camera. He told us exactly where the North Korean soldiers and cameras were at all times. We couldn't take off our coats, point, or wave. I felt so uneasy...like one wrong move would get me shot.
They hide halfway behind the building to protect themselves from an attack
This (North Korean) flagpole is 160 meters tall and the flag weights 600 pounds. It's one of the biggest in the world, and when the weather is bad they have to take it down because it will tear under its own weight. It's a 2 man job, and our tour guide said there might even be an elevator in the middle of the flagpole to help the poor guys who are in charge of raising and lowering this sucker.
This is Propaganda Village. 212 North Koreans live there, and there's a loudspeaker that used to talk 6-12 hours per day (I'm not sure if it still does) and tells everyone why North Korea is so great and why they should want to live in this village. In reality North Korea only maintains the side that the South can see, so only the front half of the buildings is painted and it rarely has electricity. Sounds super fun.
The bridge of no return. After the war people had to choose which country they wanted to belong to. You cross this bridge once and never again.
DMZ models :)
Pushing Korea back together
This was taken at the Third Tunnel. We weren't allowed to take our cameras in, so I have no pictures of the actual tunnel. South Korea found 4 tunnels that North Korea tried to dig to Seoul so they could sneak attack. North Korea denies it, of course. They tried to say the South actually dug them, then they tried to say they were coal mining. South Korea thinks there are probably more than 4 that they haven't found yet. When they found these the South made 3 giant cement barricades so nobody can ever go all the way through. We got to go into the tunnel and it was teeny tiny. They gave us hard hats and we had to duck almost the whole time. I can't imagine soldiers running through there with all their guns and equipment.
We couldn't take pictures past the yellow line. If you did a soldier would delete your memory card. There were certain areas of the DMZ we couldn't take pictures of, or we could only point our cameras in certain directions. South Korea/America doesn't want to give away any of their military secrets.
North Korea. People who looked through the binoculars said they could see North Koreans in Propaganda Village riding their bikes.
This train station has been built for the day the Koreas are reunited so people can get all they way from the North to the South. It's fully functional and totally empty, except for tourists. So weird. Inside they'll stamp your passport with a North Korean stamp. Americans aren't allowed to get it in their passport, but I got it on a piece of paper.
They are so hopeful
Us with a soldier
I wanted a solo shot but the guy walked away and we had to get on the bus, so Katie and I took this picture. He's waving at me :)
After a loooong tour we got some tasty tacos for dinner