10 December 2008

DMZ Part 02

This weeks trip is a tour of the Demilitarized Zone, one of the most misnamed places on Earth. I booked my trip through the USO which is about half the price of every commercial tour company out there.

To book your trip, I'd advise you to first go to the USO Korea website click on the 'things to do' link which should take you to the tours page. Be aware of the fact that there is a dress code, that citizens of certain countries (including both Koreas) cannot take the tour, that you must make arrangements several days in advance, and that there is a chance that you will be killed or injured as a result of enemy action. The website doesn't look like it gets updated often but the email addresses are good.

As there were large portions of the tour that where my camera could have been confiscated, there are large portions of the tour that didn't get photographed.

The vast majority of my pictures were taken in and the JSA (Joint Security Area) which is the only portion of the DMZ that has the North Korean Army facing the US and South Korean Armies.

The tour is conducted by US Army Personnel on US Army vehicles (a bus). Take a camera and listen to them, they will tell you when photographs are permitted and I would advise you not to take photographs when they are not permitted.

In the JSA, a good rule of thumb is that the majority of the grey/silver buildings are North Korean and the blue buildings are all UN buildings. There are a couple South Korean buildings and at least one of them is grey, don't think I was able to get a pic of that one.

You are monitored by the North Korean Army constantly when you're in the JSA/DMZ. They take pictures and I'm told that they occasionally like to harass tour groups. One con is that now I've got photos on record in North Korea and it's possible that they'll be used for propaganda purposed. I suspect that's one reason for the dress code.

Took the first batch of pictures from the steps of the 'Freedom House' which is a South Korean government building that was built to hold reunions between split up families. It has never been used for that purpose since the North will not allow it's subjects to leave the country for fear that they will defect.

The grey building in the background is a North Korean military building

You can see a North Korean Soldier watching from the steps

The two blue buildings are UN conference buildings where they hold talks

Same as Above

Blue building is on the right of the above picture
The Silver building is the so called 'Recreation Hall' a North Korean Building
(Has nothing to do with Recreation)

Neutral Countries Building
The Silver Section used to belong to Poland and another Warsaw Pact Country, that all changed when they stopped being good communists
(On the Right of of the above pictures)

Second batch of pictures was taken from within one of the UN conference buildings.

Conference Table used in the talks

Another Table

Border between North and South
Taken From the Conference Building Window
As an aside, technically I've now visited North Korea since I crossed this border

UN Observation Post #5

OP #5 on the left (Blue Building)
North Korea all around

Monument to the UN forces

UN Check Point #3
And a view of the scene of the 'Axe Murder Incident'

North Korea

This next group of photos is of the North Korean Propaganda Village (Kijong-dong), all taken from UN Observation Post #5

The tallest flagpole in the world with one of the largest flags in the world
(Dry Weight 600lbs)

The Freedom Village (Taesongdong) which is the South Korean village in the DMZ built a flagpole that was taller then the flagpole in Propaganda Village (100m). In response, the North Koreans built a taller flagpole (160m) and put a giant flag on it. The flag does not wave except in the strongest winds.

Another view of the village and Flagpole

Propaganda Village

Constructed by North Korea to show the South and Visitors and Residents of Panmunjeom what they were missing by not living in the 'Workers Paradise' (not to mention encouraging them to defect to the North).

It's suspected that the Propaganda Village is inhabited only by soldiers of the North Korean Army. The North claims that it has schools, kindergartens, etc.

Pictures taken of and around UN Check Point #3

Site of the 1976 'Axe Murder Incident'
And Memorial to Captain Bonifas and Lieutenant Barrett
(The two Soldiers murdered by the North Korean Army)

The round concrete slab under the memorial shows the size of the tree that the work detail went out to trim. As an aside, the VFW Post in Seoul (#8180 Bonifas-Barrett Memorial Post) is named in memorial to the two murdered men. The US Army camp in the DMZ is also named after Captain Bonifas and Lieutenant Barrett, their motto is 'Ahead of Them All.'

Below, we have a few shots of The Bridge of No Return which is where POWs were given the choice of going North or South, once made they could not change their mind and once crossed there was no return. UN Check Point #3 is to the left of the bridge on the near side, the far side is North Korean territory.

The Bridge of No Return

The Bridge of No Return

You can see the steps to UN Check Point #3 on the left side of this picture

Thus concludes my pictures of the JSA. Have a few more pictures that were taken from inside the DMZ.

Mine Field

Mine Field

Mine Field
(Let's just say that it's all farms and mine fields)

I also saw the DMZ Observatory which had a small section where photos were permitted. It just wasn't really possible to get any good photos, more's the pity since there were some great views.

And the Third Infiltration Tunnel which the North dug to infiltrate troops into the South. No pictures were permitted here either, something that didn't make sense to me since it's anything but secret. Follow the link and you can see pictures.

There is an amusement park right outside the DMZ. It didn't seem like a good place to build one to me, but I wasn't consulted about it before they began construction.

And just to prove that the creative use of English isn't solely a South Korean trait . . .

Bog bilberry Liquor

How about a closer look at the label?

Fairly sure that it's a blue berry liquor, not very sure what a 'Bog Bilberry' is, maybe it's something that only grows in the North and maybe it's another example of the creative use of English. You decide.

Grabbed a bottle of North Korean Beer along with some North Korean Soju and went half and half on the above bottle of 'Bog bilberry Liquor,' I'll post reviews of them after I've had a chance to sample them.

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