Korea Adventures: DMZ Tour of Dorasan Station, Observatory Deck, Third Infiltration Tunnel

By Cathy H - 6:55 PM

On a sunny and slightly chilly Saturday on December 12th, I crossed off my of my lifetime bucket lists- visiting the border between North and South Korea. This trip was extremely meaningful to me because I have done years of extensive research, watched many North Korean documentaries, and have followed the human rights issues there for an extended period of time. It always baffled me everytime I thought of the technological advancement South Korea has made with metropolitan infrastructures and economic success compared with the dismal realities North Koreans face by facing mass starvation, no electricity, and subjected to concentration camps. Therefore, visiting the DMZ was the closest thing I could get to experiencing this divided reality between the North and South. 

There are many organized tour companies in South Korea that take visitors to DMZ such as "Enjoy Korea Tours" or the DMZ train offered by KORAIL.  I went there as part of a national educational program event.  The drive up from Seoul is approximately one hour and a soldier checked everyone's ARC ID cards on the bus before we were allowed in the area. The first stop was a North Korean gift shop that sold everything from North Korean soju to little pins and DMZ shirts.  Than, we were off to the Dorasan train station which was stated as "not the last train station from the South, but the first train towards to North" that connects Seoul to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea.  You can buy more DMZ souvenirs, and buy a 500 won ticket to see the Dorasan train tracks for some quick pictures. It was quite surreal taking a picture with the "train to Pyongyang" sign because its a reminder that reunification for North and South is so close, but yet so far. Next came my favorite part, which was the Dorason observatory which had a bunch of paid binoculars that enable visitors to see into North Korea. 

It was a very somber yet fascinating experience standing right there and trying to find the Kim-Il Sung statue and looking at the "factories" there which basically served as a propaganda village with no people. Obviously, the real situation of the North Korean people cannot be seen.  Again, "so close...yet so far" is the feeling that followed me throughout this whole tour.  Our last stop was to the 3rd infiltration tunnel, discovered by Korean forces in 1987. We got to see a brief video at the DMZ video room, take pictures with various symbolic sculptures, and finally walk down the tunnel. No photographing devices were allowed and we wore helmets. Who knew 200 m walk down would be so difficult? Tall people had the hardest time as they tried to refrain from hitting their head on the low cave ceilings. I believe that going in the tunnel is an experience in itself, and quite the uphill workout going back up! At the end of our tour, an Korean soldier once again checked everyone's ID cards before the buses were allowed to drive out of the DMZ zone. I would strongly recommend anyone with interest in the North Korean situation or history to do the DMZ tour. Since travel to North Korea is expensive and difficult, the DMZ is a easier alternative to learn more about the history of war,conflict, and reunification hopes for the North and South one day. 

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