Favorites, Places in Korea, Travel

While the World Anxiously Looks, Residents go Touristy at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)

These days are, arguably, the most tense in the Korean peninsula.

The constant threat North Korea offers is a natural part of South Koreans’ daily living. The lone factor that magnifies the heightened alert is the arrival of US President Donald Trump today.

Why do I say “lone factor”?

Because, really! North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un, attention-seeker that he is has, so far, been managed calmly by other world leaders. The entry of US President Donald Trump in this volatile North and South Korean situation has provoked Kim Jong-Un like never before. Both leaders are provoking each other with their hard stance against each other.

The world is watching. And the world is hoping for an uneventful 2 days of President Trump’s stay here in Korea.

How fearful are the residents here in South Korea?

The Grade 5 students from the international school where my sons go to went on a field trip at… DMZ! Yes, the Demilitarized Zone along the borders dividing the North and South Korea. The field trip was very timely to their Unit of Inquiry focusing on borders. These 5th graders got to have the best spot in the world to learn about borders. There is nowhere in the world, at this time, where the lesson on borders is more pronounced than the DMZ!

The field trip had its first stop at Imjingak, the most commercial spot in the whole DMZ Tour. This is also the most convenient as visitors aren’t required to have identity checked. There were a lot of tourists in October. This was also the time when the North had menacingly threatened more nuclear tests. Foreign and local tourists didn’t look like they were deterred by these threats. And yes, our school wasn’t the only school who bravely sent students to the DMZ.

students walking on the Bridge of Freedom – an access bridge to the main span
students walking on the Bridge of Freedom – an access bridge to the main span

Imjingak is a beautifully commercialized touristy presentation of a divided country in a state of war. Take in the beauty of the hills, the pond and the beautiful art works and you would be made to feel that a state of war can bring you to a paradise called the Pyeonghwa Nuri Park.

Let peace reign. Imjingak Peace Park. #ImjingakPeacePark #DMZ #NorthKorea #southkorea #38thparallel

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Serenity – that’s all that comes to mind when I look at this cafe in the middle of a pond

art installations

I was glad I was one of the parent chaperones during the field trip. Although our family went early this year to Take a Peek at North Korea, this field trip had been a truly educational one for my son. I saw him playing and monkeying around with friends but at home, he told me “Mommy, I learned about DMZ today than when we first went there”.

Very well then.

After Imjingak, we saw more students from local schools having their own field trip at The Third Tunnel and Dora Observatory and Dorasan Station. Despite the tension the outside world hears about the 2 Koreas (and of which we are always asked “are you ok there?”, “do you need to go out of South Korea now?”), what I saw was a clear manifestation of how the South Koreans have always dealt with the constant threat from the North: Business as usual.

The boys left messages of hope at Dorasan Station.

LeNaum writing a message of hope

The 5th graders missed the Unification Platform but my sons were able to check this out and made a video during our own family trip. This Counter (time counter was as of April 2017) made an impact on them.

Will the counter ever end?

How to go there?

Our recent trip was an arranged field trip of the school. There are tour groups that can arrange this for you, too. The internet has lots of them so you can just easily check them out.

Or, you can take the Korail like we did last April and do your own trip. The Korail ride was very relaxing and fascinating for our family. Check this out for the how-tos and the link: Taking a Peek at North Korea.

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