The Demilitarized Zone is one of the most fascinating, surreal and absurd places I have ever been to. It is a mere 30 miles north of Seoul, South Korea's capital, too close for comfort imo. The blue structures belong to allied forces; the large grey structure in the back is the North Korean border house (blue structures = allies, grey structures = North Korean)... Here, tourists streaming into allied forces' house.
See the line connecting the two blue structures in the middle? North of the line is North Korea and south of the line is South Korea (so half of the blue structure is in North Korean territory and half in South Korean). If you look closely, you can see a North Korean soldier standing guard... and the soldier standing next to the blue structure is a South Korean soldier.
North Korean soldier close up -- sad, he doesn't know what he is missing... good food, silly soap operas, financial crisis... sigh.
South Korean soldier close up -- the purpose of the stance is to intimidate... there are lots of petty hostilities going back and forth, mostly from the North side (they are so cuckoo). I'll tell you more later.
Another view... there are no women soldiers at the DMZ as women are forbidden to be in combat zone. I am ok with that. (Clarification: I am ok with women not in combat not because I don't think women are capable of being in combat (if I had lived in the 1940s, I would've totally joined the army to fight the Nazis!), but because I am anti-war in general and I believe in diplomacy over brute force, especially this day and age.)
The two sides meet at this table in the blue house if they need to "discuss" anything or hurl insults at each other... apparently there were some ally flags hanging off the wall once, and North Korean soldiers grabbed them to blow their noses... and there was another meeting, both sides refused to back down, so they sat there for 11 hours straight and it is now known as the "Battle of the Bladders." Oi. Boys are so immature. If I were there, I'd be like: excuse me, Dear Leader, I have to go to the powder room to freshen up, later! And I'll stay there until the North Koreans' bladders explode and come back and win the Cold War!
UN Representative Ms. MeowMeow Cat at the table... eek, as you can tell, I was feeling a bit light headed :-)
As I've mentioned earlier, half of this room is in South Korea and half is in North Korea. This South Korean soldier is standing on the North side, which means I was in North Korea! But if you try to get pass him and get through that door to defect to the North, good luck! He'll beat the **** out of you, and I am not kidding.
The grey house to the right is the North Korean "meeting" house... like the blue houses, half of it lies in the North and half in the South. I guess they can be in enemy territory, as long as they do not get out of their respective safe houses, if they do, they'll probably get shot.
Looking into North Korea...
Allied forces' Observation Tower #4, the Bridge of No Return and North Korea in the beyond.
Bridge of No Return. At the end of the Korean War, POWs were given the choice to either cross this bridge or remain where they were, but if they crossed, they could not return. So many Korean families were divided after the War, it's heartbreaking. Sigh, things like this make you want to ask -- why?
Propaganda Town in North Korea. This is hilarious: until 2004, North Korea broadcasted propaganda from this town to the South for six to twelve hours everyday! It is a ghost town as lights turn on and turn off at the same time. When the South built a high tower to hang its flag (South Korea's border village is right across), the North was determined not to be outdone, so they built this humongous structure and put a humongous North Korean flag on top. The flag is so heavy that its dry weight is about 600 pounds! It takes a hurricane to make that flag blow in the wind.
We finished the tour with a visit to the Joint Security Area gift shop! In fact, there was a gift shop at every stop. Hoooray to Capitalism!
And we had some food at South Korea's Freedom Village. Yay, we got fed, double Hooray to Capitalism! Kim Jong-Il, eat your Kimchi heart out!
Back to urban jungle civilization... it was a beautiful day.
And more shopping at Myeong-Dong
Where I bumped into these Turkish dudes selling Shish Kabob Taco in Korea! *Head Shaking in Amazement* The unstoppable forces of globalization. Kim Jong Il's world seemed so long long time ago and far far away.