When on July 27 1953 the thunder stopped, 4 million voices forever kept silent. The sun, half hidden behind the smoke of a thousand guns looked at the land it left behind the evening before. It was covered in blood, red and raw. All that remained of an ancient culture was rubble. The sun rose over two wastelands, crushed between the jaws of the cold war.
Sixty years later the debris has been cleared and the sun been set free of its chains of smoke. But its warmth has not reached the hearts and minds of all people yet. Cause while the Southerners sit around an economic bonfire, their brothers and sisters up North still shiver from the terror, hunger and cold of a war long past.
At the border between North and South Korea mines and barbed wire tear apart families, history, a country. Here, in one of the most heavily armed parts of the earth, love and hate stand face to face. Embodied in two soldiers, one from the North and one from the South. Standing just a few meters apart, they both seem to come from another planet…
….A trip to South Korea is not complete without a visit to the border with the North. Here, on the 38th parallel, you’ll be amazed by what humanity is capable of and shocked by the fragile line that divides madness from sanity. The border, that’s us. Walking on the edge between good and evil. A treacherous walk during which some loose their balance by accident while others leave the right path on purpose.
Reality is probably not as black and white as the average soldier accompanying visitors to the DMZ, would like to think. But he can’t be blamed. Barely twenty, half a world away from home and living and working in a surreal no-man’s land. Stuck between two heavily armed armies in a place called the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
From Seoul, you can visit the DMZ in a day. Capitalism does not stop for mines and barbed wire, it seems to live of it. The choice of tour operators seems to be unlimited, but the best choice for walking through the 3rd Tunnel, enter the famous blue UN barracks on the border in the Joint Security Area (JSA) and let you stare in amazement at a enormous statue of Kim Jung Il in the shadow of a 600 kilo North Korean flag is the leisure organization of the U.S. Army : Koridoor.
Another way to see the border between North and South is to drive yourself or take a bus to for example Odusan Unification Observatory or the Imjingak ‘resort’. This ‘resort’ is actually a park on the banks of the Imjin River which is crossed by the Freedom Bridge and the railway to the North, the symbol of the separation between the countries. To make an already weird scene even weirder, you’ll also find a small amusement park here.
Nature meanwhile, takes no notice of the shortcomings of mankind. Luxuriantly it thrives in the DMZ which has become the breeding ground of an Asian bird of hope and peace: the crane. As with everything at the 38th parallel, symbolism too is extreme.
DMZ/JSA/3rd Tunnel visit
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