Visit the Korean Demilitarized Zone
In the borderlands between North and South Korea lies an eerie expanse of controversial territory: the Demilitarized Zone. The air is thick with the weight of its history, and the memory of those who have lost their lives in conflict. Visiting this strange landscape allows you an insight into the continuing tensions in the region.
What to expect at the DMZ...
Created at the end of the Korean War, the Demilitarized Zone is still heavily guarded on both sides, but, as per the armistice, there are two villages within this 4km wide stretch of rugged landscape - one South Korean, and one North Korean - but you won't be allowed to visit them, and your visit will be closely supervised, but you will be able to see quite far into North Korea from observation towers, and possibly take a step over the border.
Ultimately, you are heading for one place: the 800 metre wide Joint Security Area (JSA) where neither North or South Korea has jurisdiction, but your tour may take you to other landmarks along the way.
Imjingak Park combines tranquillity and tragedy, the immaculate lawns and pools contrasting with a sombre memorial to families separated by the border, while the extraordinary 3rd Tunnel (one of four old infiltration tunnels dug by North Korea) shows excavation for over a mile through solid bedrock.
The Military Armistice Conference Hut, where the original treaty was signed, is open for tours, each country’s visitors taking turns with timed slots. In the hut, small markers show the Military Demarcation Line: the actual border where North and South Korea meet.
Guards stand by the doors, impassive and resolute, as your guide talks you through the history of the conflict.
Pausing in this no-man’s land, at once in both countries and in neither, is a surreal experience. The difficulties facing the region may seem daunting, but there are glimmers of positivity. In other buildings along the line, the two sides have persisted with negotiations for over 60 years.
The table straddling the border in the visitors’ hut symbolises the hope that, one day, a permanent peace will be agreed between these two countries that, though forever touching, are still worlds apart.
Travelling back, you’ll look out across the deserted countryside which, frozen between these two realities, has defiantly regained its beauty.
Location: Seoul to Panmunjom, Korean peninsular
Duration: Half or whole day tours
Accommodation: Your choice of Seoul hotel
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A visit to the DMZ gives you the opportunity to see the constantly developing story of this region at close quarters. Truly extraordinary.
There are rules regarding not taking photographs that may include North Korean guards, so ask your guide before taking any snaps. Due to the delicate diplomatic situation, the UN has set restrictions on which nationalities are permitted to visit the JSA, so check with us before booking. Children are not usually permitted on the tours and there are strict dress code and ID requirements. Visits to the JSA must be booked at least 48 hours in advance.