Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The DMZ and JSA

On Tuesday my mom and I went to the DMZ. We went with a tour put on by the local USO office here in Seoul. When we arrived at the base on near the DMZ we were escorted in by some US soldiers for a briefing. We had to sign a waiver that said that we might experience death as a result of enemy action. Wonderful.

From DMZ

After signing the form, we got back on a bus and headed into the DMZ. We were told to stand in two single file lines, and we walked right into the JSA. We got a briefing from one of the soldiers, and then were allowed to take as many photos as we wanted. Here are some:

From DMZ
This is out the window looking at two North Korean soldiers.

From DMZ
This is a South Korean soldier guarding the door to the North Korean side of the DMZ.

From DMZ
Here I am with the soldier guarding the door. I was a little nervous and didn't want to get too close to him!

From DMZ
Here I am with the second South Korean soldier. He was guarding...well I'm not sure. But he was there and intimidating!

We were soon rushed out of the room and then told to go stand next to a building. We were able to look out at the North Korean side. Multiple times we were told to not point at the North Korean of course I asked at question and pointed like an idiot! Anyways, I believe the North Korean's were distracted because they had dignitaries there visiting. Check out the photo!

From DMZ
You can hardly see them because there clothes are all drab and such. Shortly after this they walked back inside and the North Korean guards did this:

The US and South Korean soldiers were kind of freaking out a bit. Our guide told us he had never seen so much action or many guards out from the North Korean side during a tour.

After leaving the JSA we went to see the Bridge of No Return where North and South Korean soldiers went back to their home country after the war. Once they chose a place, they couldn't switch...hence the name.
From DMZ

We also got to see Propaganda village...from far away:

From DMZ

You can see the North Korean flag on the flag pole...which just so happens to be the 3rd largest flag pole in the world. I guess they used to have massive speakers spouting North Korean propaganda like 12 hours a day. No one actually lives in the village (well, maybe a few people) but the tall buildings are just made of concrete blocks and there aren't any floors in them. We were told that there is light on the top floor and you can see it just fade into blackness by the time it reaches the bottom floors.

Our last stop was the train station that the Korean's repaired to try to help bring the two Korea's together. This is one of the only signs in Korea that has both Seoul and the capital of North Korea on it together.

From DMZ

It was very interesting to learn about how many of the South Korean people feel like it is their obligation to help North Koreans. They want to unify Korea. My mom has several books that she is going to recommend that shares some stories about what it was like to live in North Korea and then defect to South Korea.


shalinn said...

Wow Becca. That's so amazing. What an experience. I don't blame you for not wanting to get too close to the North Korean soldiers! BTW - now that you're in Asia I already have a feeling I'm going to go comment crazy. I don't mean to be extra weird or anything, it's just that we now have a special connection :) I'll try to be civil about it!

Katie said...

Love this post Becca! Thank you for sharing your experience with us! I can only imagine the thoughts and feelings during htis tour, what a memory!


EMILY said...

Wow. I mean wow.

Becca said...

Shalinn, you are more than welcome to go comment crazy! I love comments :)

jami said...

Those are cool pictures! The soldiers don't even look real. :) My Dad was stationed at the DMZ when he was in the Army. I think he said his job was to drive dignitaries around...but I will have to double check that. It looks like you are having fun!

All In Jim said...

The military is a big part of both North and South Korea Becca. There are some excellent videos about the Korean War, one of the best is Korean with subtitles about a young Korean boy being forced to fight. The 2nd Infantry Division has the mission of defending the Korean peninsula until we can reinforce them. They know that they are greatly outnumbered. In Germany we used to call ourselves "speed bumps." It must feel strange being the tallest person walking down the street too. That always freaked me out. Have fun and try at least one "traditional" meal if you can find it. Disgusting, but makes for a good story. Where are you staying? Post some pictures and details of your city/town/village. Check out the mounds of dirt on the side of the hils too.