Daily Life

I went to North Korea! Kinda.

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Me trying to look half as cool as the S. Korean soldier

Top of the morning/afternoon/evening, dear readers!

Awhile ago I mentioned that I would post about my experience doing a JSA/DMZ tour (by the way, JSA = Joint Security Area and DMZ = Demilitarized zone. Well, now’s the time, yay! First things first, a tip: please don’t do this tour in the dead of winter. I seriously thought I would freeze in North Korea and have my dead body dragged across the border. I have no idea what the temperature was, but I haven’t experienced that kind of cold since I was in Canada a couple of winters ago.

Which company did I use?

Okay, so if you were unaware, you cannot just float around aimlessly around the North Korean border. You’ll have to choose a tour group to go with. After much research, my mom and I chose to go through Koridoor Tours because we felt it was the best bang for our buck. For civilians, this tour costs $92 and for the military it’s $65.Their DMZ/JSA and 3rd Tunnel tour included:

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판문자/Panmunja – the welcome center for people entering N. Korea. I think the only people who really go there are Chinese and Russian tourists that take the N. Korean version of the JSA tour
  • Freedom House – this was built on the S. Korean side to host reunions of displaced family members, however North Korea refused to utilize it.
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Conference room – This is a S. Korean soldier standing in a threatening Taekwondo stance with one foot in North Korea and one foot in South Korea. That means I, too, had one foot in each country when taking this picture!
  • Conference room at the JSA – this where you can actually step into N. Korean territory. When government authority from N. and S. Korea, the US, etc. have to meet, they meet in this room.
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The famous blue buildings. The atmosphere in this area was really heavy. 
  • Bridge of No Return (this was off-limits during our trip due to recent tensions)
  • Site of the Ax Murder (this, too, was off-limits. bummer) – US officials reported to N. Korean officials that they were going to chop down a couple of trees. When a young N. Korean soldier noticed this, he told the American soldiers to stop chopping but they ignored him. N. Korean soldiers proceeded to use the axes that the US soldiers dropped and killed 2 US soldiers and injured many others.
  • Dora Observatory – with a 500 won coin you can use binoculars that look into North Korea! Apparently the area that you’re looking into is actually uninhabited, but N. Korea set it up to appear as if it was a thriving area. Really cool but extremely cold. The only picture I got was garbage because I couldn’t stand to hold my phone lol.
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A really nice, but really empty and kinda unfortunate train station. I hope it’ll be put to use someday. There’s also a piece of the Berlin Wall at the station
  • Dorasan Station – A subway station that was built to serve as the first point of public transportation between N and S Korea. It used to make a couple of trips across the border, but due to some issues that arose, there are no more trips.
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A nice, hopeful structure at the sight of the 3rd Tunnel
  • Third Infiltration Tunnel – the 3rd of 4 tunnels discovered dug by N. Koreans to invade S. Korea. It was super cramped inside and took a bit of physical bravado but very interesting nonetheless.

I enjoyed going through USO Koridoor Tours, but I felt it was a bit rushed. We spent about 5 minutes at Dora Observatory and had it been warmer, I definitely would have wanted more time there. We also only had about 2 minutes in the conference room, but that might have been because there were many other tour groups that day. Also, lunch was not included, it cost $10 extra per person, but was a nice buffet of bulgogi and side dishes.

My experience at the DMZ/JSA was unforgettable and I’d definitely recommend that everyone do a tour. It leaves you feeling burdened and hopeful at the same time and also helps you put some things into perspective that you only hear about on the news. With the recent assassination of Kim Jong-Un’s brother, Kim Jong-Nam, it will be important to keep close watch of what’s going on in the isolationist state.

Okay errybody, thanks for the read and as always, my inbox and ears are always open!

Stay beautiful ❤

Christina

 

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