DMZ (Korea)

The Panmunjeom article provides a more specific guide to the 'peace village' in the DMZ that many tourists will visit.

The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) runs along the complete 248 km land border between North Korea and South Korea and is 4 km wide. This article will cover visiting only from South Korea for practical purposes. Visiting the peace village of Panmunjeom covers tours from both from North Korea and South Korea for that specific part of the DMZ.

Understand

The DMZ runs from the Yellow Sea to the west to the East Sea (Sea of Japan) with the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) directly in the middle. It runs along the northern border of the two South Korean regions of Gyeonggi and Gangwon.

The DMZ is highly militarized on both sides, and very little civilian or military activity occurs within the DMZ region itself. It has become a wildlife haven for both animals and migratory birds, and there are calls to preserve it as a national park and sanctuary for wildlife in the event of reunification on the Korean peninsula.

History

The DMZ was founded in 1953 at the end of the Korean War as a result of the armistice agreement between the United Nations, North Korea, China and the Soviet Union. It was agreed to create a buffer zone 4 kilometer wide, with only a minimal military presence and patrols occurring within the DMZ itself. Since more than 50 years have passed, it has had the side-effect of creating a zone with minimal development and thereby allowing nature to take over.

Landscape

Sign marking the DMZ dating back 50 years and counting

The DMZ has very varied landscape, from the rivers and estuaries of the west near Seoul, to the mountainous areas to the east in Gangwon. Nature has very much taken over and forests and grasslands exist all along the border.

Flora and fauna

Climate

The DMZ is very long, spanning two provinces in South Korea from coast to coast, and the climate will vary along it. The eastern part is especially mountainous and cold in winter.

For general climate indications, please see the climate section for Seoul.

Get in

NOTE: Access to the DMZ is occasionally curtailed at short notice when tensions rise, for example in May 2010 during the aftermath of the sinking of a South Korean warship. As of October 2013 tours are operating normally again.

Fees/Permits

There are strong nationality restrictions for entering the DMZ area. Tours to Panmunjeom have the strongest restrictions.

Get around

Many of the destinations listed as inside the DMZ will usually require a guided tour bus with a fixed itinerary. Destinations just outside of the DMZ do not have these travel restrictions.

See

Tunnel Fever

North Korea has built numerous infiltration tunnels into South Korean territory, four of which have been discovered. South Korea and the United States believe they have the sole purpose of allowing North Korea to send troops behind South Korean lines for an attack. North Korea claimed (after the discovery of the third) that they were simply mining for coal, although geologists will note that the granite area makes that somewhat unlikely. Many South Koreans fear that there are more tunnels, and since there is no way to disprove this suspicion, it impels a few dedicated citizens to finance and pursue their own tunnel hunts, a psychological condition termed 'tunnel fever'.

From Seoul

First Infiltration Tunnel

The first tunnel was discovered in 1974, and an explosive device left by the North Koreans killed an American and a South Korean soldier. It does not appear possible to visit this location.

From Cheorwon

From Yanggu

Fourth Infiltration Tunnel

From Goseong

Places of interest in the South

The following locations are not near the DMZ, however they may be of interest to DMZ visitors.

Do

DMZ Tours

The easiest way to experience the DMZ is to take a tour that will organize all the permit issues for you:

Buy

Sleep

Generally speaking, there are almost no accommodation options in the DMZ and surrounding control areas.

Lodging

Camping

Camping is not a popular pastime among South Koreans, and it would be unlikely to get permission from the United Nations command to allow you to do so in the DMZ itself.

Stay safe

WARNING: Do not attempt to cross the DMZ border under any circumstance as that would risk your life, the lives of members of your tour group and the lives of soldiers from both sides.

Visiting the DMZ is actually very safe as long as you follow all the rules. Do bear in mind that both sides treat this as a war zone in suspended animation and therefore doing anything unusual is a very bad idea.

Non-human threats include a great number of landmines all along the border.

Go next

Assuming you are on the South Korean side, you will have all the usual possibilities in South Korea:

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, November 16, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.