Seoul, December 18th
Asia trip 2018-2019

Today is going to be a quite different morning than usual. I booked a guided tour of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in the North/South border. As a change, I do not need to think what to do or where to go. I just need to follow the guide.

The guide picks us, 40 people in total, at different Hotel locations. The first stop is the Freedom Bridge, or Bridge of No Return. The bridge crosses the Military Demarcation Line (DML) between the North and the South and was used to interchange prisoners. From there, we visit the Dorasan station. This station paid for by donations connects Seoul with Pyeongyang and was build during the Sunshine Policy years.

Guide pointing to a place on a map
Train sign: DMZ-train 4888 16:27
Train full of bullets holes on display

Next, the bus drops us at Dora Observatory. From there, it is possible to see North Korea. From the observatory, I see the two villages from the two sides of the border. Each village has a flag representing its side. For a while, each country tried to set the flag taller than their neighbor. They created a world record in the process of doing so.

South Korean flag on a high pole
North Korean flag on a high pole

The last stop is the Third Infiltration Tunnel. The military found the tunnel in 1978. Later on, they opened the access to tourists. Nowadays, there is second access more suited for the large number of people that passes by each year. Pictures of the place are forbidden.

The guided tour was a good decision. The guide, Kim, was very professional, keep things on time, and made the time shorter between stops by talking about the history of the border and the Two Koreas. There is not much to see in any of the stops, so going with a guided group feels the right thing to do, as the quick pace is very appropriate. The complete tour is interesting enough.

After a visit of the current history of Korea, I go now to Seonjeongneung burial grounds. Seonjeongneung is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and part of the past history of the country.

"The Seonjeongneung is the burial grounds of two Joseon Dynasty kings and one Joseon queen. The westernmost tomb belongs to King Seongjong (r. 1469–1494), the ninth king of the Joseon dynasty. His first wife, Queen Han, died at age 18 and is buried near Munsan, north of Seoul. His second wife, Queen Jeonghyeon (貞顯王后, 1462–1530), from the Yun family, is buried here because she gave birth the king’s second son (the future King Jungjong) in 1506."

Wikipedia contributors. (2018, October 30). Seonjeongneung. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

The park is in itself an alluring place. Several species of birds have their nests here, and there are paths that cross the small forest.

After being in a place of conflict in the morning, the park is a good, peaceful place to end the day.