The Northern Side of the Korean Demilitarized Zone

Approximately 250 Kilometers long, 4 KM wide, and running roughly along the 38th parallel, the Korean Demilitarized Zone continues to be the most heavily militarized border in the world.  Most people visit it from the south but I am one of approximately 300 Americans who have visited it from the North.

Demilitarized Zone - North Korea

North Korean guard at Panmunjom, DMZ.

The trip to the border region south of Kaesong was the first activity on our week long visit to the DPRK. The DMZ would also be our first chance to test our preconceptions for what our visit to North Korea would be like:

We were marched (you know it’s serious stuff in North Korea when you are marched around as we were also later to do at the Kim Il-sung Mausoleum/Kumsusan Memorial Palace and the International Friendship Exhibition) – didn’t really expect that but since I went to military school I was ahead of the curve.   Pictures we took would NOT be instantly scrutinized and deleted, our military guides smiled and were very friendly, we would NOT be able to give South Korean soldiers profane finger gestures, we would NOT instantly be arrested for giggling about Kim Jong-il (our guide would blush in concern that we were giggling over her English usage, not the ‘Dear Leader’), and “the DMZ is the one place in North Korea where you ARE  free to take as many pictures as you want” rule was severely tested by my 10 pictures a second Sony A55 – I was warned to tone things down.

Demilitarized Zone - North Korea

The DMZ was also our first full on introduction to North Korea’s alternate historical reality.  What we know as the ‘axe murder incident‘ was simply explained away as a misunderstanding when an axe got innocently thrown over a fence – no mention of murdered US servicemen.  Desire for peaceful reunification was talked up while anti American propaganda was pointedly avoided, but the alternate historical reality crept back when all of us tourists were  sat around a table used during armistice talks.  Our guide enthusiastically named off North Korean officials and where they had sat, but when asked who had sat in my seat, the guide dismissively answered “some American aid or secretary” – hmmmmm, my seat was at the head of the table on the American/South Korean side.

Demilitarized Zone - North Korea

Soldiers marching at Panmunjom, DMZ.

Pointing out the DMZ line

Tour guide Ms. Kim pointing out the DMZ – photo by Kinabalu

Demilitarized Zone Guide

Local guide at Panmunjom, DMZ.

Demilitarized Zone - North Korea

North Korean guard at Panmunjom, DMZ.

Demilitarized Zone - North Korea

North Korean guard at Panmunjom, DMZ.

Demilitarized Zone - North Korea

North Korean guards at Panmunjom, DMZ.

Sign Language Tour at DMZ

Sign Language Tour at DMZ

The Korean War and the DMZ explained in sign language by tour leaders of a group of the hearing impaired.

Jordan Harbinger at the DMZ

Jordan Harbinger points out the Northern side of the DMZ.

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One response

  1. TBM

    What an experience!

    January 26, 2012 at 8:54 am

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