No Man’s Land Korea

War is a sad thing, especially when it divides people who only wish to live in peace with their neighbours, who also happen to be their relatives, but that’s the situation on Korea, a country which is divided into two distinct political systems; the South, which is a paragon of freedom and democracy, and the North which is perhaps the world’s most despotic and closed nation.

When you visit South Korea, it is possible to get a glimpse of the North from the Demiliatarised Zone, which is just 55 kilometres north of Seoul.

The Zone is 4kms wide and 240kms long, and, on the face of it appears to be one of the least pleasant places you could wish to visit. Most of the Zone is surrounded by mines, tank traps, electric fences, and much of it is cut off from human encroachment; which has given it one great advantage in that in areas where human’s presence is limited, nature can flourish, and so it is that the Demilitarised Zone is a haven for native flora and fauna, particularly spectacular birdlife.

To see for yourself how two sworn enemies share a border it is worth visiting the village of Panmunjom which is in the Joint Security Area. Visitors are permitted here, but only in tour groups, and even then you must be accompanied by military personnel at all times.

You must carry identification with you, which is your passport if you are a foreign national, and they even have dress standards, in case members of the North Korean military may become offended by the sight of a pair of shorts of plunging neckline.

Where you have two sections of a formerly united country at loggerheads you can expect some huff and puff, and this kind of one-up-man-ship is clearly illustrated by the size of the flags flown by the opposing sides.

The South Korean flag is of substantial size, but it is somewhat overwhelmed by the size of the North Korean flag, which is a 300kg giant. Unfortunately, the size of the North Korean food crop doesn’t dwarf the South Korean food crop, as the poor unfortunate citizens of the North cannot depend on the Dear Leader to provide adequate food, only regular famine.

You can actually venture into North Korea, but you do so inside a building, which belongs to the United Nations. If you are fortunate, you may even see a North Korean soldier peering back at you through the building’s window.

One of the attractions if the world’s most dangerous golf course, a par 3 hole that is surrounded by armed combatants, barbed wire and which has bunkers that are made from concrete instead of sand.

1 comment to No Man’s Land Korea

  • John Ross

    Very reminiscent of the Berlin wall. At the time over the wall in East Berlin, was some 100 metres of no mans land with vehicle obstacles, barbed wire, thick sand (even Usain Bolt would take a quite a few minutes to run across that) and patrolling guards with dogs. Behind the wall were spaced high watch towers and the guards would watch you by directly aiming their binoculars at you (somewhat unnerving). But at least you could visit East Berlin for the day (unchaperoned) and the East Berliners would have had more to eat than their North Korean counterparts (one is referring to the ordinary citizen here!)

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