This very special, sometimes weird and confusing DMZ, JSA & 3rd Infiltration Tunnel tour is a must do when you are visiting Seoul. You will get more information about the sad history and the present situation from South and North Korea. My DMZ guide will give you some information what the tour includes and what you can expect.
Even I was not sure all the time what was real and what was fake only for the visitors, it’s well worth the visit.
For example at the JSA, the U.S. military guy who did the briefing told us that there are only South Korean officers standing and being there when visitors are there. The rest of the time no South Korean military guys are at the Military Demarcation Line…
At the 3rd infiltration tunnel South Korea blamed of course North Korea for everything, so it was a little bit like a propaganda tour sometimes, but as mentioned already, well worth it.
How and where to buy tickets for the DMZ/JSA Tour from Seoul
I can recommend the KORIDOOR Tours company. They do informative tours and offer pick up and drop off at your hotel. You can buy the ticket at the USO (United Service Organizations Inc.) at the Camp Kim office. When I did the tour, the cost was $92.
You can reach the ticket office by Subway. The closest stop is SAM GAK JI Station, line number 4 and 6. Take exit No. 10 and walk about 400 meters to the Camp Kim/USO entrance.
The DMZ, JSA & 3rd Infiltration Tour
First you will get a short briefing by the U.S. military at the JSA (Joint Security Area) Visitor Center. They will give you some information and rules of what to do and not to do.
The first real stop of the tour is the Joint Security Area. The JSA is a 400m x 800m big area, which is set up on the Military Demarcation Line and it is the place where you will be at the “border” to North Korea. You will see and enter the blue houses which you might know from many pictures on the newspaper. You can feel the tragedy of the divided land and the effects of the war.
You will visit the Freedom House, Conference Room, Point of Ax Murder and the “Bridge of no return”. The “Bridge of no return” was used for prisoner exchanges at the end of the Korean War in 1953. The name originates from the final ultimatum that was given to prisoners of war brought to the bridge for repatriation: they could either remain in the country of their captivity or cross the bridge to return to their homeland. However, once they chose to cross the bridge, they would never be allowed to return, even if they later changed their minds.
Bridge of no return
The Imjingak Park & Freedom Bridge
The Imjingak park was built to console those from both sides who are unable to return to their hometowns, friends and families because of the division of Korea. Nowadays, there is a restaurant, an observation deck, monuments and statues reminding the Korean War.
The Freedom bridge cross the Imjin river. It was used by repatriated soldiers which were returning back from the north.
The Military Demarcation Line is surrounded by the Demilitarized Zone. The Military Demarcation Line is 250 kilometers long and separates South and North Korea. Southern and Northern boundaries of the DMZ are located 2km apart from the MDL.
The positive aspect of the DMZ is nowadays that along with the DMZ, the area is highly valued for undisrupted ecosystem and environmental resource.
The 3rd Infiltration Tunnel
The tunnel was discovered in October 1978 and is 1.7 km long, 2 m high and 2 m wide. It runs through rocks and is about 73 m below ground. It is apparently designed for a surprise attack on Seoul from North Korea, and easily 30000 men per hour can go through.
Upon discovery of the third tunnel, the United Nations Command accused North Korea of threatening the 1953 armistice agreement signed at the end of the Korean War.
Initially, North Korea denied building the tunnel. However, drill marks for dynamite were observed in the walls point towards South Korea and the tunnel is inclined so that water drains back towards the northern side of the DMZ. North Korea then officially declared it part of a coal mine. The walls of the tunnel where tourists are taken are observably granite, a stone of igneous origin, whereas coal would be found in stone of sedimentary origin.
Dorasan Train Station is the northernmost station of South Korea, which is 700m away from the southern boundary line of the DMZ. The Dorasan Station is designed to be the station that connects the railroads of the South and North one day in the future. At the moment it is unfortunately only used as a tourist attraction.
The unfinished station of Dorosan implies the reality of the division between the two Koreas, but as well hope and expectations for the future. Dorasan Station would play the role of customs and entry point. Especially for Chinese and Russian people, goods and hopefully as well North Koreans
Situated on top of Dorasan (Mount Dora), the observatory looks across the Demilitarized Zone. It is the part of South Korea where it is the closest to the North. You can catch a rare glimpse of the reclusive North Korean state through binoculars from observatory. You will be able to see the North Korean propaganda village situated in the DMZ, a remnant of the old prosperity of the North, and you can see as far as the city of Kaesong. The observatory is close to the Third Infiltration Tunnel.
- Check out my extensive Seoul City Guide with a lot of inside information.
- Curious about whole South Korea? My post about the Things to do in South Korea will give you some useful advice.