August 2021


Last Day in Seoul: the DMZ

Me and the South Korean Guard

Me and the South Korean Guard – I’m standing in North Korea

The last stop in Seoul for me was the DMZ – the space between North and South Korea where tensions are highest.

Except for me, the tension did not seem that great.

I took a tour from the “Service Club” – www.tourdmz.com – that featured Panmunjom, the place where the two countries face off the most. The tour I signed up for also included the 3rd Tunnel Tour – advice to anybody thinking about doing the DMZ tour: Panmunjom is the only part worth doing. The 3rd Tunnel tour and a stop at some overlook mainly took up time and did not really do much for me.

Posing for Photos

Not that the guard posed, he was just in that stance continuously.

On the way north from Seoul, our tour guide gave us lectures about camera use, behavior, being careful, etc… because it might be that the tour gets cancelled if our military escorts are not amused by our behavior. She then noted that this was more likely to happen if our guides were South Korean soldiers.

South Korean Guard

This South Korean soldier is guarding the door to the north

We got two American solider guides and they were incredibly relaxed – and it was rather sudden, at least to me, when we arrived at the Panmunjom site and entered the conference room, standing around the conference table that is half in the north and half in the south. I manage to stand in such a way, during the initial lecture, that my left half was south and my right half was north.

Outside the hut, facing the north, were South Korean soldiers – each in an incredibly tense posture.

Guarding the Border

The border is marked by the line running between the buildings about halfway down.

Yet, as I noted before, I never really felt the tension personally.

And although my passport wasn’t stamped, I can now add North Korea to the list of countries that I’ve visited.

Me in South Korea

Me in South Korea

Random notes for those who care:

  • The English spoken by our South Korean tour guide was bad. This seems odd to me given that her job is to escort, speaking English, English speaking tour groups to the border on a regular basis.
  • Seriously, do only the Panmunjom tour. The Third Tunnel tour was pointless – you get to see where the North Koreans were digging into the south but unless you know a lot about mining, it’s hard to read the evidence.
  • I’m under the impression that the North-South tension has become background noise for most people living in Seoul. My university student tour guides never talked about it – except to ask me why I was interested in going on a tour of the DMZ.

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