Perhaps one of the main places we wanted to visit in Korea is the DMZ (demilitarized zone).  I have always been interested in history and politics, and the history of this place is of course fascinating, sad and tragic.  Of course the recent events have made this even more fascinating, and a tad bit scary.  We even worried whether we would be allowed to visit the DMZ (or even take our trip altogether) given what was happening with N. Korea.  But things seem to have been quieting down, so we took the trip.

By all means, the trip was amazing.  It took about a half day, though you can take longer trips.  To be honest, our tour guide kept us moving very fast and that was in part why it was about a half day tour.  Half the day seemed to be spent just in traffic jams as the traffic in Seoul is horrible.

The DMZ is amazingly close to Seoul.  Shortly after we finally picked up our last person (we left very early in the morning) I was amazed when our tour guide started to point out to us the barb wire that was beside the highway between the road and the river that had been following the highway.  Hopefully you can see it in this picture. 

Our tour guide said "that is to keep the spies out."  I thought that was a bit paranoid because he meant the North Korean spies, but I later learned he was right.  Our first stop was perhaps the most stop of the trip.  We stopped at one of apparently four tunnels that have been discovered in the last few decades, apparently dug by the North Koreans, spanning many miles.  They are big enough to send many troops to invade the south.  Amazingly, we were allowed to descend down into these tunnels, with hard hats on.  It was very tough to do, as the tunnels were about 70 feet below the surface, and we walked about 360 feet along the surface.  The tunnel at most points was about 5-6 feet tall and I hit my head many times -- I did have a hard hat on, but man if I did not I would have been badly injured.  Though I was not supposed to take picture inside, I did anyway (and our tour guide, who was very funny, hinted we could secretly do so anyway!)


After maybe a stop or two more, we came upon what was perhaps the main and most important stop.  A place where we could have a main observation point, and look over, with binoculars, across the DMZ, into North Korea.  It is indeed stunning.  As you may have heard, the DMZ itself is quite beautiful, really mostly untouched by humans, and a very pristine place -- mountainous, and it has wildlife, and water and so on.  On the South Korean side it is quite gorgeous.  But as our tour guide told us "you know how you can tell where North Korea starts?"  No, we all said.  "It is where all the trees disappear.  You see the North Koreans cut down all the trees and everything else for firewood, or for food."  He was indeed right.  It was stunning, and quite sad.

The next picture I took I was not supposed to take, so it will look odd.  As I stood at wall looking over into the hills, I secretly took a picture towards North Korea.  So you will see part of the wall, and in the distance see North Korea.  



The remaining pictures were taken around the DMZ, and represent some ideas and views of the Koreans about the DMZ, and their hopes and dreams.