Sunday, November 11, 2007

The De-Militarized Tourist Zone

The biggest tourist destination around Seoul is the DMZ. Each day hundreds of visitors come to the border on buses from the city center. There are also many visits by groups of school children. In the DMZ museum dioramas and on the post cards the hostile cold war imagery has been changed to hand shakes and peace doves.The military presence is pictured as cute toy soldiers.I'm not sure that the camouflage will hide this border outpost. The thrill part of the tour is the exploration of the tunnels. Our guide claimed that the North Koreans had built seventeen tunnels from North Korea to the South, some over 50 kilometers long. Some of these tunnels are now explored by troops of tourists, who are issued hard hats for the trip. The guide said with a wicked laugh:"The South Koreans get the money (from the admission to the tours) but the North Koreans did all the work for nothing!" He also pointed out that there were now factories in the DMZ industrial zone where North Koreans get paid the equivalent of $60 a month. One of our Korean friends said that even that $60 was more than they actually get, as their dorm rental and food expenses are deducted from their checks.Dioramas in the museum point out the border and the "Joint Task Force" Zone, which now has a large population of endangered species of both flora and fauna.There are now tours to the North.
The souvenir shop at the DMZ sells framed pieces of the barbedwire border.This is me at the friendship bridge. The mountains behind me are in North Korea, home of one of Bush's axis of evil.

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