Monday, October 25, 2010

Trip to North Korea (almost)

This past weekend was  full of  Korean history for me so much so that I've decided to publish two posts to include everything I want to. On Saturday I visited the DMZ. This is a piece of land that seperates North and South Korea and has since they signed their peace trety over sixty years ago. Techincally the Korean war has never ended as the soldiers reiterated to us over and over as we began our tour. I had to sign a waver stating that i would not in any way interact with the North Korean soldiers regardless of weather they tried to interact with me or not. I also had to promise not to point, wave, smile, nod or do anything that may tempt the North Korean soldiers to say that I was threatening them and therfor had the right to kill me. Totally comforting right? I mean how close was  I really going to get to North Korea though? Plus I was surrounded by US and ROK (Republic of Korea aka South Korea) soldiers. Ohhh... This close? Wow this history tour just got way more real that the freaking cyclorama in Gettysburg!

ROK soldier standing guard in the front of the photo.
In the upper left hand part of the photo a North Korean soldier.
I am very proud of my artsy photo I must say. It was a really eerie feeling standing that close to so many soldiers. Not just North Korea both sides. All of the men had guns and the ROK soldiers were ready to go at any moment.

The ROK soldiers stand at a modified stance so that
they can break into a form of Korean fighting at a moments notice.

Next we went to see the Propaganda Village located in North Korea. It is called a propaganda village because it is basically a Hollywood movie set. No one lives there and the North Korean government used to play loud anti South Korean propaganda for up to 14 hours a day so loudly that it could be heard in the barracks on the army base miles away. 

Many of these have windows painted on. When they turn
on the lights on the top floor the light shows to the bottom floor.

In an effort to out do S. Korea, N. Korea put up this flag.
It however weighs 600 lbs. and is so big it can't fly and
has to be taken down when it rains so that it doesn't rip. 

Next we visited the 3rd tunnel.This is the third of four tunnels that has been found as a N.Korean attempt to infiltrate S. Korea. We were not allowed to take photos inside the tunnel but I'll tell you it was a steep slope in and out. North Korea denied that they made the tunnel however I myself placed my finger inside a dynamite hole that clearly faced South Korea from the North.

Nothing like a touristy photo op at a historical landmark.
Our last stop was a train station that is the last stop on the South Korean line toward the North.
Dorasan station was created with the idea that soon the peninsula will be united. It was very sad to see the sign with hope that the tracks will someday move forward stationary and aging poorly with the elements.
Not the last station from the South,
But the first station toward the North.
This will eventually lead to what is now the
capital of North Korea

This is a photo of the train facing toward
a place where the tracks are
currently blocked with cement and
barbed wire.

The trip to the DMZ was very informative and really a trip I encourage anyone who visits South Korea to go on. It felt very surreal to be surrounded by North Korea on three sides and to feel the struggle that has happened there for so long. All of the Koreans that I have spoken to really do pray for a united Korea and hope that it happens soon. What I really wonder is what will happen if and when the unification takes place. It will be combining one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world with one that doesn't have the internet. A country that eats pizza as often as gimbap with one that hasn't eaten. People who won't know how to drive, hail a cab, ride a subway or even fake speaking "south korean" well enough to fit in. The world is going to have to pitch in if a true unification is to happen. The North Korean defectors are not treated well here and have a very difficult time starting a new life. I hope that the unification does happen but in my experience preparation isn't exactly a Korean strength and I hope that the UN really understands how drastic of a life change this will be for Korea and all of Asia.

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