A Rare Experience Into the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)

👫 I wasn't aware that HB was planning to get the DMZ/JSA tour. I was a bit hesitant and would have preferred to stay in the hotel and tucked into bed as I was already feeling exhausted after days of touring. But thank goodness, HB made a decision to make reservation 4 days before the day tour! He looked up online, called up a local travel agency for a guided bus ride to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and Joint Security Area (JSA).

JSA Visitor Center

Souvenir / Gift shop beside the JSA Visitor Center

We were relieved to have a spot one day before our departure in Seoul. We were eager but at the same time apprehensive since this tour was something completely different. But everything ran perfectly. The itinerary of this combined full-day tour includes in the Panmunjom JSA where guests will experience the tense atmosphere on the borderline. 

South Korean soldiers standing guard on the border seemed like in their 20's. The one in the front was our JSA tour guide. He speaks fluent English with an American accent.

a South Korean guard inside a JSA conference room
It was one of the riveting and unnerving trips we had ever been on, primarily because this is the most heavily armed border in the world. Observing the young Korean soldiers and the North Korean guards standing face to face without a concrete barrier or fence makes my blood run cold. 

You will also get the chance to descend into the Third Infiltration Tunnel dug by the North Korean Army into the South, in preparation for a sneak attack. Don't worry, the South Koreans have blocked the actual Military Demarcation Line with three concrete barricades. It consists of two parts, 358m long interception tunnel, and 265m infiltration tunnel. However, please be reminded that the tunnel is potentially hazardous for people with known heart disease or asthma. Photos are not allowed inside the tunnel.

The third infiltration tunnel tour starts at DMZ Tourist Information Center

Helmets for the visitors who are going to access the tunnel

lockers for visitors

DMZ Souvenir shop
Tourist Map of Paju
We also visited the Dorasan Station, which is a railway station on the Gyeongui Line, is the northernmost stop on South Korea's railway line.

Our Korean guide was knowledgeable and sharing us some interesting trivia. She also took us to a traditional Korean restaurant during lunch where we sampled a delicious Bulgogi with several side dishes. One niggle though I think it's important that tour guides be trained, how to treat all guests "equally". We were the only Asians among the many Caucasian tourists who joined the tour. And I felt like she treated and regarded us as "less priority" during that time. Tsk, tsk, tsk...

Please remember that guests who are going to join the DMZ tour will be asked to sign a waiver upon entering, and you must have your passport with you on the tour. There are restricted areas so you can't roam around freely and you are strictly asked to follow the instructions of your tour guide when and where to take a photo. After the tour, drop off locations are chosen from a list that the tour company gives you.

The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is a highly militarized strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula. It was established at the end of the Korean War to serve as a buffer zone between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). The DMZ is a de facto border barrier that divides the Korean Peninsula roughly in half. (source)

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AN ASIAN TRAVELER, Exploring Around Asia!