Splitting the Korean Peninsula roughly in half, the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is one of the more unusual tourist attractions Kirsty and I have visited. Our July 2010 trip to the southern side border was made even more surreal by the fact that back in May 2001, when I visited North Korea, I stood underneath the sign on the balcony of the large grey building in the photo being told by my North Korean guides to wave enthusiastically to the South Korean and (then) US military personnel over in South Korea.
Soldier on the South Korean side of the DMZ
The two visits to the DMZ couldn’t have been more different. On the southern side of the de facto border, Kirsty and I were briefed with the utmost seriousness on how to behave once we were at the border, how we shouldn’t make any sudden arm movements and what and who we were allowed to photograph. On the northern side, I was told to wave and smile with zeal (I guess to show the other side that the north was a happy and relaxed place?) and I was even invited to go and look inside one of the blue conference rooms and pose for photos with one of the North Korean guards.
Both visits were a bizarre experience – I learnt more about the history of the DMZ from the South Korean side but I had more fun and was certainly more relaxed visiting from the North.