"The visit to the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom will entail into a hostile area and possibility of injury or death as a direct result of any enemy action...the United Nations Command cannot guarantee the safety of visitors and may not be held accountable in the event of a hostile enemy attack. Sign here..."North Korea has always fascinated me, but has always been way too expensive and hard to visit. You have to go with an organised tour group where they follow you around with a video camera, and you are not allowed communicate with the locals. So my cheapest option to even catch a glimpse of north Korea was to go on the Punmunjeon tour. It cost around $80 for the tour. First real tour I have been on, which was weird. I was shoved on a bus full of Japanese tourists where the tour guide summarized the 2 hour long speech she made in Japanese explaining the monuments we were about to see, into a 3 min short spiel.
|Crossing into the heavily armed DMZ (demilitarized military zone)|
It was heavily guarded and you had to follow strict guidelines from the stern looking UN soldiers. No short skirts, no laughing, no smiling, no looking back towards the North Korean border when you leave etc etc etc. The rules all seemed odd, but when your being shouted at by a UN man in uniform, you don't ask questions. On the tour you are taken to the Joint security area, in the firing line of the North Koreans, to the Panmunjom village. This village is famous for its blue houses used by the United Nations to facilitate meetings between North Korea and South Korea. Either side sit across from each other at the table in the centre of the building, showing the dividing border.
|Concrete slab marking the border between North Korea and South Korea|
Looking across into the North you wonder what is beyond the huge grey building covered in surveillance cameras pointing our way. You wonder just what that little soldier is looking for through the enormous binoculars staring right at us. And you can't help thinking about that attack in 2008 when a North Korean soldier crossed the border and killed a tourist in the DMZ area.