Today Matt and I went up north to the DMZ. We took a tour bus loaded with westerners and a Korean tour guide. It only took us about an hour to get up there. We traveled about 40 miles from Seoul. In order to get into the JSA we had our passports checked on two different occasions by two different ROK (Republic of Korea) soldiers. Having my passport checked is nothing new, it happens all the time, the soldiers were friendly and obviously used to the hordes of tourists (western and Asian) that come through.
I know that the Korean war is still on. Nothing has been settled, and every few years there is a little something that starts up, and unfortunately, a few people get killed. But all this seems so far away. Seoul feels like another world. But in that short drive, driving between tank barricades, having mine fields pointed out to you, seeing the bunkers and barbed wire, you realize how real this is. We saw a few things, but those things were unimportant. We saw a building where the north and south leaders had met. We stood in a tower and looked at the northern side of the boarder. But all of this, all this seeing, that wasn’t what was important. What was important, least for me, was the tension I felt. I mean I really felt it. My stomach is still not right. When we got out of the bus, we were told not to make hand gestures, to walk in straight lines, not to ask any questions. The US military and ROK military was always by our sides. We went into a building. We took some goofy pictures, we came out of the building. (At one point I touched the furniture. put matt’s camera on the table in order to take a picture with mine. They, for the first time, told us we were not allowed to touch the furniture.). Maybe that was part of it, we were not allowed to do much of anything. We had to wear a certain type of clothing, we could only take pictures at certain points, no gestures, no questions, walk straight. It just gave me a feeling of foreboding. We were told over and over again that the North was watching. Just so much propaganda. Such high tensions.
The Koreans are one people who faught a civil war which is still not over and was, in reality, something both sides were helped into. Millions died, and now they just stare at each other across this line. Both sides watch. The Soldiers from the N and S are not allowed to talk. Today I saw only one North Korean soldier, and he was far off. (I got him in a picture.) This line, in more than just a physical place, can’t be crossed. It stands between two worlds which couldn’t be more different.
Sure there will be more to say tomorrow, but I wanted to put this up tonight.
Feel like this is a place to be seen on the night before you are leaving Korea.