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

    Posted on May 28th, 2009 Michele Sun No comments

    There were four known Infiltration Tunnels in the DMZ and not sure how many more haven’t been found yet; according to intelligence analysis it is believed that North Korea began digging the tunnels after Kim Il-sung (North Korea’s President) issued the September 25 Combat Readiness Order in 1971. In this order, he stressed the need to dig tunnels under the Demilitarized Zone, saying that one tunnel would be more effective than 10 atomic bombs and would thus be the best means to overwhelm the heavily fortified front. There was one tunnel that could reach into the center of Seoul and North Koreans had attacked the city through it – the target was the Blue House.

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    I went into one of the tunnels to explore it, but first need to put on a helmet to protect my head. The tunnel was long and steep, and very wet and cold with water dripping from above. It took me about 20 minutes to arrive at a stop where South Koreans have sealed the tunnel to stop intruders from the North. While walking very carefully I got goose bumps on arms, not sure it’s from the chilliness from the under ground or my imagination of how the North Koreans digging the infiltration tunnels.

    Once resurfaced, I walked toward a barbed wired fence with lots of little notes and pieces of cloth. I walked on the Freedom Bridge taking measured steps, a sign said “Opening up breaking the 50 year barrier”. The Freedom Bridge is the only bridge crossing the Imjin River and the only bridge connected between South and North Korea. On 16 February 1952, Freedom Bridge, a focal point of worldwide attention during the Korean War, was officially opened and became a major link between the truce site of Panmunjom and Seoul. About 13,000 war captives in North Korea crossed this bridge and returned to freedom. This is truly a bridge to freedom!

    There were many notes on paper or cloth hang on the fence, written by South Koreans who have been separated from their family in North. There are about 10 million South Korean people separated from their families in North Korea, and many of them come to this spot to comfort their own soul. Each year, joint memorial services for loved ones in North Korea are held at Memorial Altar during the Lunar New Year and Chuseok (Korea’s middle autumn holiday). “Look Hometown” are the names and inscriptions carved on the stele.

    Next I walked to a train station – Dorasan Station. On December 11, 2007, freight trains began traveling north past Dorasan Station into North Korea, taking materials to the Kaesong Industrial Region, and returning with finished goods. South Koreans are not allowed to enter North Korea yet, and I am not sure how soon the plans will be finalized. I went inside the Dorasan Station to have my passport stamped and insisted on taking a picture with a guarding solder. Now look at the picture, he must be very annoyed by this persistent rude civilian tourist.

    Nearby, there are Imjin-gak Tourist Resort and Unification Park but I wasn’t really into those tourists point and decided not to go there. However, I did stop at the visitor center and watched a short introductory film, but found the talks about flower and birds was very fluffy and too propaganda for me. But nevertheless, this has been a memorable trip and experience for me.

    Back to my hotel room, I watched a TV program that helps South Koreans locating their parent, child, or sibling that got separated by the War. As I watched them hugged and cried after reunited, I felt so moved and sad for them even I did not understand what they were talking about. Therefore I was shocked to learn from my friends in Korea that the younger generations have less desire to see two nations reunite, or to simply put “don’t care.”

    I can’t help but wonder how deep the divisions run since two nations have been divided for so long, especially after the recent rocket launch and military threats by the North Korea?


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