BY WONG MEI QING
… Without actually setting foot in North Korea, that is. The Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) in South Korea is the buffer space between the two Korean Peninsulas, allowing you to peek into North Korea, one of the most closed countries in the world.
Korea is the only divided country in the world: After the Korean War (25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953), South Korea and North Korea established a border that splits the Korean peninsula approximately in half. Stretching for 2km on each side of this border is the DMZ. As one of the last “relics” of the Cold War, the DMZ attracts a great deal of public interest, and is a popular destination for travellers from all over the globe.
For security reasons, the attraction does not allow independent visitors. Hence, you would need to join a tour. Most tours would include time at the Imjingak Park, Bridge of Freedom, 3rd Infiltration Tunnel, Dora Observatory, and Dorasan Station. They usually pass by the Unification Village as well—this is where you can catch a glimpse into North Korea.
Imjingak Village is the furthest north that South Koreans can go freely. After this point, you must be granted government permission to explore further. Upon reaching Imjingak, your tour guide will need to collect all the passports for registration to enter the civilian-restricted areas, so do make sure to bring your passport along.
Next, the Bridge of Freedom connects North and South Korea. However, it is currently blocked by massive barricades and is closely monitored by both countries.
The Infiltration tunnels were discovered in 1984, and was dug by North Koreans with the intention to infiltrate South Korea. It was never fully completed, and the longest tunnel is 1,082m. The 3rd Tunnel, which is part of the itinerary, is the closest to Seoul (only 44km away).
The last stop would be the Dora Observatory which allows us to peep into North Korea from a safe distance. Binoculars are provided free of charge for tour participants.
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