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  • My Trip to the DMZ South Korea (part I)

    Posted on May 28th, 2009 Michele Sun No comments
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    Recently North Korea has threatened military actions against U.S. and South Korea, and the sights of soldiers marching in the DMZ are aired on major news channels yesterday. This brought back the memory of my trip to the DMZ South Korea couple years ago.

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6N0Vrp6tM70]

    It was June, right after Computex in Taipei, Taiwan. I decided to pay Seoul a visit after seeing it so many times in Korean TV dramas. A friend of mine arranged my staying at the InterContinental in Kangnam area, and I was able to wonder around the city by the metro system efficiently, thanks to the very easy to understand metro map and color coded routes. I did not have any specific plan for that trip, except visiting the DMZ, the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

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    For the first couple days I had cruised the city and visited palace, museums, shops, night markets… on my own and love the freedom of seeing a safe and modern city at my own pace. However, I asked the concierge at hotel to  recommend an English speaking guide for me, because I wanted to learn about this DMZ. The concierge not only found me a tour guide for me, but later that day they also asked me if other tourists at the same hotel may join me and share the expenses. So I ended up having the pleasure to spend whole day with a marketing exec from AMD, an American woman with her adopted daughter who would turn 18 that summer and this mom-and-daughter duo were visiting the girl’s birth parent (Koreans), plus a pilot and co-pilot from Air France.

    DMZ is a strip of land between North and South Korea and works as a “buffer zone” between two countries. The DMZ cuts the Korean Peninsula roughly in half, crossing the 38th parallel on an angle. The 38th parallel north was the original boundary between the US-occupied and Soviet-occupied areas of Korea at the end of World War II. After my trip, I read War Trash by Ha Jin and learned that Chinese POWs (prisoner of war) from Taiwan and China were also there for many years.

    Since it’s outside of the capital Seoul we could not take metro, instead we were on a bus ride for about an hour. The ride was pleasant because I got to see the different part of Seoul other than the upscale Kangnam or the very hip Mingdong districts, and the trees lined highways were very clean and beautiful – a nice late spring day in Korea. But once we got closer to the DMZ, I found the landscape quickly changes to boring barbed wire and fences dotted with military outposts.

    DMZ is the world’s most heavily militarized area where hundreds of thousands of troops are stationed on the southern side, mostly South Koreans, but there are also some 28,000 U.S. troops supporting them. The soldiers all looked very stern and serious, even a bit hostile in their uniforms, especially the Koreans. Soon I found something very interesting and Hollywood-like though, some American soldiers were wearing sunglasses while the South Koreans not :-p

    After a brief introduction upon arriving the DMZ, we were grouped at an observation platform, a second floor balcony area, which is the nearest point to North Korea from South Korea. We were told (or instructed) absolutely no pictures taking and absolutely no gesture communication with the North – this is a military area after all. We whined and complained about the no picture taking parts and were immediately hushed to keep quiet. I was able to see the North Korea soldiers standing on the opposite through observing binoculars, and they looked just like the South Koreans (amused)!

    Part II of this post

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