DMZ, a place that will remind you – the war isn’t over in South Korea

Joint Security Area in Panmunjeon
Joint Security Area in Panmunjeon

Paju is a city that is very close to DMZ, in other words – the Demilitarized Zone or the custom zone with North Korea.
No one can go there on their own, if tourists want to enter that part of South Korea they MUST arrange it in advance with a travel agency.
During that trip you’ll be told to keep your cameras away and do not take pictures, on the other hand you’ll be encouraged to take pictures only in the places that are safe and that will eventually prevent any speculation from the North Korean side.

IMPORTANT:

When you go to DMZ tour, make sure to you have your passport with you!!!

Commemorative Wall
Commemorative Wall

Some curiosities about DMZ:

  • Locals don’t have the same privilege as foreign tourists. They need a special permit issued by Korean Government and after delivering the papers for this permit, one needs to wait about 6 months before he/she gets it.
  • People residing in the very proximity of the border have a fiscal advantage over the rest of the country (South Korea). They don’t pay taxes, they get subventions and are helped in any way possible by the government.
  • The main activity in these villages is agriculture.
  • For a person coming from outside DMZ is impossible to get a residence permit in DMZ. In case of marriage it’ll be easier if the resident of DMZ leaves the place than otherwise.
  • Land owners / farmers in DMZ are considered richer than their peers in the rest of the country, and  this is mainly because of the tax free regime. This aspect makes the region very tempting and attractive for people living outside DMZ.
  • Residents of this region have special permits, that allow them to exit and re-enter whenever they want without any problem.
Imjingak shrine to the displaced
Imjingak shrine to the displaced

In Imjingak/ Imjinkak , on the oter end of the parking lot, there’s a plain with 4 statues. Those statues represent the 4+ generations that are looking over the border to North Korea and waiting to meet their families and friends left there. The different size of these statues represent the connection or the ties between the next generations.

Also here, in Imjingak, you’ll hear about the “cows bridge”, you’ll see an old steam locomotive and a wooden bridge that you can walk on and even take pictures. Nearby the parking is a monument with many names on it, it represents the soldiers that fell in the war.

Generations waiting to be reunited with their families left in North Korea
Generations waiting to be reunited with their families left in North Korea

There are many other interesting things to see there, not disclosing everything otherwise you won’t have much to discover on your own.

I strongly recommend a half-day or a day trip to DMZ! It’ll make you understand better the history and the current political situation in South Korea.

Lunch in DMZ
Lunch in DMZ

If you want to know more about this place and maybe see what are the fares to pay for a trip to Panmunjeon or/and tunnels, I have found some additional information for you (please keep in mind that you need to book this trip in advance, at least 4-5 days) :

Tours to Panmunjeom
The USO Tours by Koridoor runs popular and cheap tours to Panmunjeom/DMZ. The tour is open to both servicemen and civilians alike. The tour costs US$80 or 96,000 won for civilians and US$40 or 48,000 won for servicemen. Be sure to make your reservations in advance. For more information, call (02) 6383-2570.

The Korea Travel Bureau Panmunjom Travel Center also run tours to Panmunjeom. Both cost 77,000 won, and both leave from the downtown Lotte Hotel. For more information, call Korean Travel Bureau at (02) 778-0150 or Panmunjom Travel Center at (02) 771-5593.

The International Cultural Service Club’s Panmunjeom leaves from downtown Lotte Hotel and costs 78,000 won. For more information, call (02) 755-0073.

 Seoul City Tour, offers a discout for tours booked online! You can book this tour from 40,000 won!!! More details here.

DMZ Tours. The starting price is 46,000 won if you travel alone and 41,000 for a group of minimum 3 ppl! More details about this agency and about all their tours, here.

Observatory houses on the highway to Seoul
Observatory houses on the highway/ freeway to Seoul

Travel safe and wise!

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