North Korea: Part IV

Unbelievable. My left foot is is South  Korea, my right in North Korea. This table is where representatives of both sides meet periodically, along with representatives of neutral nations such as Sweden, Switzerland and Poland.

To get to this point, though, we had to switch buses. No outside bus is allowed to get to this building, located just behind the handsome, large Freedom House building–constructed with funds from a South Korean corporate titan.

Our ROK military escort exited with us and showed us to the new bus, kept only on these grounds.  We had to leave everything behind on the original bus besides our cameras/phones.  By this point we had also received a 15 minute briefing about the history of the JSA and the 21 nations involved via the United Nations in maintaining order and, as much as possible, peace here along the border.

I saw at least one Western woman given a pair of loose fitting black pants to put over her tight pants.  The dress code was indeed being enforced.

Just before the briefing we signed this paper which included ominous statements such as this:

Freedom House was constructed as a gathering place for reunited families. Regrettably, families are separated now more than ever. Now the building is used as a gateway for war tourists such as myself. I had no idea we were already at this particular point when we walked up some stairs, were told to remain quiet and orderly–“no gestures of any kind”–and then walked out directly into this scene:

Dead quiet. So grand in scale and perfectly organized and coordinated…Spielberg had to be lurking on set somewhere.  Right?

But, actually, this was all too real. What I’d been reading about for so many years I was witnessing up close. South Korean and North Kirean soldiers facing off in the world’s most dangerous intersection.

ROK (South Korean ) soldiers monitor actions of the North
A North Korean sentry monitors us

Soon, I was on the other side–looking back towards the South. Although closely monitorec and guarded, I was actually in North Korea! I couldn’t truly believe it. Soil that so few in the world ever touch in their lifetimes.

In North Korea with a Republic of Korea (South Korea) soldier. I am awkwardly trying to imitate the intimidating and completely motionless stance all ROK soldiers keep when facing off with North Korean soldiers. How is he in North Korea with me? No South Korean citizen is even allowed to get anywhere near as far as I’ve come, but we are in a militarily neutral zone carefully monitored by the United Nations.

I’m obsessed with checking my FB location when I travel. Have to say, this is my most unique location yet.

United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission

Bridge to Nowhere—North Korea on opposite side

North Korean landscape with heavily forested DMZ in the middle….

Part V forthcoming!

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