North Korea DMZ danger EVIL is afoot!

I was in North Korea last week, well kind of. I went to the DMZ with a US Embassy tour. History recap and factoids! Korea was divided into the American and Soviet occupied regions in 1945 after WWII at the 38th parallel. In 1950 North Korea invaded South Korea starting the Korean war and basically the cold war. in 1953 an armistice was agreed upon and the De-militarized zone btwn north and south was made. North Korea is officially a socialist republic but whatever, that's communist. It's a nuclear weapons state that makes everyone nervous, has one of the worst human rights records in the world, is insanely poor, the most militerized nation in the world. It is super secretive and is considered the most isolated country in the world landing it the name "the hermit kingdom".

I went with Yoon and his mom and Will and other embassy peeps. It was an all embassy tour. the DMZ is the most militarized area in the world with North and South Korea still technically at war. If you look up DMZ in wikipedia you can see a list of scary stuff that has happened pretty frequently at the DMZ the most recent being shots exchanged btwn the two sides in 2010. the US military is heavily involved here and briefed us on the bus. If you're paranoid like I am you feel a little off being here.

the DMZ is a 2.5 kilometer wide area between the north and south, a no mans land filled with mines, barbed wire, and is one of the most dangerous places in the world. because of this it's also unwittingly turned into a wildlife reserve home to a bunch of rare animals. Inside the DMZ is the JSA (joint security area). this is it, the middle building is where all negotiations are held. one side of the room lies in North Korea and one side in the South. Behind these buildings now is North Korea! the land of Evil!

North Korean soldier with binoculars standing on the steps of that building searching all of us, kind of creepy. they said he was probably looking for name tags or anything to show if someone important was there.

they call these guys ROCs, republic of korea military. they have these metal balls in the hem of their pants so they jingle when they walk around. doesn't sound like such a good idea but it's a traditional hold over from japanese occupation, so double doesn't sound like a good idea. One scary incident it inside that JSA room one time a guy was patrolling and check to see if the door to the north was locked but there were 2 north korean soldiers waiting on the other side and heard him coming because of the balls and whipped open the door and grabbed the S.Korean soldier and tried to drag him into north korea but i think they got him back. more scary and crafty N. korean stuff coming up.

here Will is wearing this hat he bought online sometime ago but looks like what they wear in North Korea.

we went into the JSA conference room and there were two ROCs standing there unmoving. One side of this room is south korea, one side is north.

I am now taking this picture standing in North Korea

the left side of that concrete line is south korea, the right side is north korea

they stand like that so they can make hand gestures with their hidden hand back towards the side of the south so they can communicate discretely if they see something suspicious.

on the conference room tables there were foot prints from north koreans in the finish that they say they just can not get out no matter how they try because of whatever is on their feet. The north koreans know that many world leaders, presidents, South Koreans, etc... use this room and they prance around in dirty barefeet on the tabletops to show disrespect.

we saw the peace villages the north and south maintain. this is the north's, only this one is fake and no one lives here. the south built a flag pole and upon seeing that the north built a rediculously higher flagpole, the world's second tallest. the flag has a dry weight of 600 pounds.

nothing inside these buildings, all for show.

in 1976 there was the ax murder incident. before this time the north and the south soldiers were allowed to be in the JSA at the same time. A local korean hire was chopping some branches from a poplar tree that were blocking the view from one of the watch towers when he was attacked by North korean soldiers with axes. there were 2 deaths. this is where the tree used to be.

the bridge of no return. POWs after the Korean war were brought to this bridge and could choose which side they wanted to remain on. If they choose the north then they probably a regretting it now.

gift shop had a bunch of crap except for this blueberry liquor from the north and north korean beer. haven't tried either one yet but i bought some. will report later.

traditional dance masks

model scene of the ax murder incident. the north korean's don't really help their cause at all if they don't want to seem like crafty and untrustworthy weasels that would stab their own grandmother in the back.

imagine being murdered by ax.

check out this old missle launcher (not missle but watever it is). the handle looks like its made out of aluminum and gum, scary to use.

after that it was down into the third tunnel dug by the north koreans that ended in south korea. Since 1974 there have been 4 tunnels discovered that they blasted with dynamite. Later they smeared the rocks with coal dust or paint and claimed that they were coal mining tunnels. the 4th tunnel was discovered in 1990. they predict there are most definitly more undiscovered tunnels. the one we're in now is a mile long, 500 ft below ground and 6.6ft high by 6.6ft wide. it would allow 30,000 north korean soldiers to cross through in an hour. How scary is that? there are more out there pointed at Seoul still undiscovered! On the 500 ft way down the cart thing malfunctioned and everyone was starting to get a little worried. had it really happend today, right now? were the north koreans coming through the tunnel now to mow us down? Eventually we had to all climb over cart seats through the tunnel to get out of that area. so it was a little exciting and better than a normal tour. it was pretty tight and claustrophobic in there.

our tour guide guy. not pictured was the checkpoint area to go to north korea for citizens. yes that's right. north korea has allowed south korean companies to set up shop in Kaesong city in the north. im fuzzy on how all this works but South korean companies get super cheap rent, super cheap north korean labor and can get around other trade regulations banning goods from north korea. north korean workers get to work in modern facilities under civilized management, get paid tons more even though its still pennies ($57 a month) and basically get to be out of north korea for a while. the checkpoint looked like a giant subway station. It doesn't seem like a very smart move to operate in North korea because they have a history of changing their minds back and forth and it seems nothing is guaranteed there.

on last look, just feet away lies NORTH KOREA!


Kristen Owen said...

This was a very cool post, Jason. I had a tour of the US embassy compound in Manila recently... not nearly as interesting :)