This Friday, my North Korean Politics and Society class took a trip to the North Korean border which is only about an hour from Seoul. This experience is definitely one I will not forget. I have never felt so close to history; there are over 50 years of tension, threats, and attacks between the two countries. There have been 4 tunnels discovered between the borders of North and South Korea and it is estimated there could be 20 or more unfound tunnels currently being built. During our trip to the DMZ, or, the de-militarized zone, we got to walk down into one of the tunnels that North Korea had been building toward Seoul. When it was found, it was 52km away from its target. South Korea has now claimed occupance of the tunnels, and have turned the 3rd tunnel into a tourist attraction.
It was a very eerie feeling on our way to the border. We drove along the Hanyang River which, on the west side of South Korea, separates North and South Korea. We could actually see North Korea across the river. There is heavy border patrol all along the river. There were manned guard stations all along our journey to the DMZ. There are also barbed wire fences, spotlights, cameras, everything you would expect to see at the border...but actually seeing it really hit home what is going on on a daily basis.
Moutainous North Korea can be seen here across the river
Before arriving at the DMZ, we went to the Institute for Unification Education where South Korean hopefuls educate others on the history between North and South Korea and the benefits of unifying together. Much of the information we learned here had already been discussed in our class and the professor giving the presentation was, "very impressed!" and said we were, "very smart!" in our knowledge of the two countries.
Several members of our class outside the unification center
At the DMZ, a symbol of the efforts to unify a very different North and South Korea:
At the DMZ, we were given hard hats to walk into the tunnel but cameras were not permitted inside so this is the only picture I was able to get of the experience.
The tunnel we walked into is depicted in this diagram: