The 38th Parallel

Slice of Life Challenge Entry #18:

My previous entry has sparked me to write about a recent trip I made a few months ago to the DMZ (the 38th parallel) here in Korea. This is the border of North and South Korea. Actually, the Korean war never really stopped. They called a seize fire and now there is a heavily guarded border between the country, splitting it in half. As an American citizen, it is a much easier process go on a tour of the DMZ. There were a lot of one day packages you could purchase to see this in person. When I arrived there, I found out that for S.Korean citizens, there was a much stricter process. You needed to book it months in advance and go in a group of 30 people or so.

I was excited to finally go, but still feeling a bit nervous. I was going a week  after Kim Jong Il, the dictator of N. Korea had died and his son, Kim Jong Eun was put in power. This didn’t effect our tour plans, but there was more news on N. Korea and speculations of the effect of a new dictator put in power. We were prepped before going in on certain rules, wearing appropriate clothes, no open toed sandals, taking pictures only at certain places and no speaking in Korean.

After being passed multiple security guards and stations, we finally arrived in the DMZ. The area that is guarded heavily by South Korean and North Korean soldiers. We were being escorted by someone from the American army. He gave us specific instructions. When we got to the area where you can see the North Korean soldiers on guard in the distance, we were not allowed take pictures of the South Korean side of the building. However, we could take pictures of the North Korean side.

After standing in a line, taking pictures of the North Korean side and their building, they took us into the conference room where the North and South Korean leaders would meet at times. There were S. Korean guards inside there as well. My brother who was visiting at that time was taking pictures with his phone camera. Then, he started to take a picture out of the window of the S. Korean guard who looked like he was just staring at the building. My brother being naturally curious and intrigued that this soldier was looking straight at a building, started to take a picture of him. In a matter of seconds, the tall bulky army escort walked over to him and said that he was not allowed to take that picture. He made him erase it immediately. Luckily, he didn’t take the phone from him. We all breathed a sigh of relief.

We came back on the bus, and started the journey back to Seoul (only 2 hours away). I couldn’t really believe it. I was back to the busy streets of Myeong Dong full of tourists and shoppers, where they dropped us off at the hotel lobby. Only a few hours ago, I was at one of the heaviest guarded borders in the world. I could actually look into the vast land of North Korea and whisper prayers for the people suffering there.

Here are some photos from the trip. (Thanks Stacie for teaching me how to insert a slideshow!)

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12 thoughts on “The 38th Parallel

  1. Kristi Lonheim (@lonheim) says:

    Thanks for sharing your excursion with us. Your picture of the bridge reminded me of the Amazing Race episode that they visited the border. I was surprised at how much footage they allowed. Hearing that the views across the border are fine, as long as the possible S. Korean targets are not shown helps me to make sense of it.

  2. Jaana says:

    Great slice! I definitely got the feeling what it is like to stand so close to the border. Your line, “whisper prayers for the suffering people” was touching.

  3. elsie says:

    Thanks for an interesting post about an area that is surrounded by mystery. Why can’t you take pictures of the South Korea side? What a scary moment to have your brother approached by the guard.

  4. Tara says:

    I am curious about those ribbons – they seem a surreal backdrop for what lies beyond the border. What an amazing experience to stand there and know about the suffering that lies stretched out before your very eyes. Thank you for sharing this.

  5. Lee Ann Spillane (@spillarke) says:

    Like, Tara, I’m curious about the ribbons too. Prayer ribbons, I’m thinking. Thank you for taking us on tour with you! We had an exchange student, “John”, from Seoul this winter. Your photos brought some of the stories he shared to life for us.

  6. grade4wizard says:

    The wall in Berlin came down, Soviet Union broke, may be one day the border between N and S Korea will be gone. Right now it seems rather unbelievable.

  7. Linda Baie says:

    Oh the razor wire makes such a statement. Are the ribbons for remembrance? It is indeed sad that those in need cannot be reached. Thank you for showing us the trip, Jee. Interesting and a bit alarming.

  8. Tam says:

    It is mesmerizing what people do to each other especially when you see it first hand. I had an ex-boyfriend who was stationed there in the early 60’s, but I never saw any pictures. Thanks for the tour.

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