What an amazing adventure! This was a guided tour which took us into the JSA, or Joint Security Area, inside the DMZ. The trip was facilitated through one of four licensed agencies and required pre screening of passports 48 hours beforehand. The first part of the tour took us up to a memorial park, where South Koreans can go to leave remembrances to their loved ones on the other side as well as messages praying for unification. There was also an old train, the last one out before the border was closed. Haunting! They gave us a great lunch up there at an upscale restaurant. And it was time to head through several military gates at the DMZ, which is really not that far from Seoul.
The DMZ experience was INCREDIBLE and very serious. Our passports were checked twice at two checkpoints. We had to carry them on us at all times. We had a military escort all the way from the DMZ boundary to the UN joint security area. I did not realize we would be actually standing inside North Korea, but we actually did because they took us into the Joint security conference building, half of which is on N Korea side of the border. The building is used for negotiations, exchanges and humanitarian purposes and is the only official means to exchange citizens.
The NK soldiers were peering in the windows at us and we were told NOT to point or gesture in any way at them. We discussed afterwards that they might have just been curious about the tourists but in actuality I think they were keeping an eye on the SK soldiers who were stationed inside. They let us stay three minutes inside the building and three minutes outside where we were allowed to take pictures. The tour guide said we were lucky because often the NK soldiers don’t come down to the buildings like that. Maybe they wanted to give the tourists a thrill but I think more likely it was related to military reasons that they came over and were looking in the windows. After all we were standing on their part of the building!!!! IN North Korea!
It’s no joke as you could feel the tension, even the tour guides seemed a bit nervous!! Epic, awesome tour, well worth the $77 per person I paid.. For three of us, quite the experience!!