Symbolic, eerie, and arguably the most unique attraction in South Korea: visiting the Demilitarized Zone. Roughly 4km wide, the DMZ was established as the area of ‘truce’ between North and South Korea at the end of the Korean war. Today, you can visit the edge from South Korea, explore the site, and look across into the isolated country across the border. Here’s what to expect on a visit.
Heading to Imjingak
As you might expect, the direct area around the Demilitarized Zone isn’t exactly the most residential spot. However, it’s easy to get a train or bus from Seoul to the Imjingak in under 2 hours. This is a commemorative park placed by the DMZ, built for those on both sides of the Korean war left unable to return to their loved ones. There is also a restaurant there to set you up for a visit!
First up, visit Dorasan Station – the northernmost train-spot in South Korea, once intended to connect South and North. At varying times in its history it has been used for travel between the two nations but today its purpose is largely commemorative. Have a look around and learn about the station’s history – including an exhibition in an old train carriage. Take a look at the clock counting the hours since Korea was divided and buy a commemorative train ticket as a souvenir from your visit.
Next, visit the Dora Observatory – as close you’ll get to North Korea on the DMZ. From here you can look across the border using binoculars and see the nearest North Korean villages. If you’re lucky you might spot villagers themselves as well as Cooperation Farm and a Kim Il-Sung Statue.
3rd Tunnel Created by North Koreans
Since the war ended, North Korea has dug tunnels under the DMZ to allow it to carry out a surprise invasion. The first significant tunnel to be discovered was in 1974, sparking South Korea to consistently check for potential invasion tunnels via drilling and tunnel patrols ever since.
Since 1974, there have been 3 more significant tunnels discovered, including the ‘Third Tunnel of Aggression’. Intercepted prior to completion, the tunnel still stretches around 1.6km under the DMZ. 40 years since it’s discovery, the tunnel is now open for tourists to come and visit.
On a visit, you’re able to walk part of the tunnel, however if you’re claustrophobic you might struggle as it’s only 2m wide and tall! The tunnel is now blocked off with separate slabs of concrete, but you’re able to walk as far as the first and take a look through the glass.