Between the Playground and barbed wire – a trip to the Demilitarized Zone of Korea


The border between North and South Korea is considered to be insurmountable. A part of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to visit. DW-Reporter Kai Dambach was on the trail of the division on the road.

The Korean Peninsula has been divided since the end of the Korean war in 1953, two; as a buffer between North and South Korea, the so-called Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is used. A nearly 250-kilometre long corridor with barbed wire, mines and guns aimed at anyone who comes near. The starting point of my trip to the DMZ, Seoul is just an hour’s drive from the border. The capital of South Korea is a self-confident, open-minded metropolis. Since the end of military dictatorship in 1979, in Seoul developed rapidly, was the venue of the summer Olympic games and world Championships. Global companies such as LG or Hyundai have their headquarters here. Everything in the direct vicinity of North Korea.

A little bit of South Korea reminds me of West Berlin, an island in the Cold war. Although the Asian country is not surrounded by Communist neighbors, it is isolated, because it is only by airplane or boat to reach. In addition, there is still no peace Treaty between North and South Korea.

South Korea: A tourist train arrives per day at the last station before the DMZ

Travel without guarantee

Anyone who wants a guided Tour in the visitor-accessible section of the border area companies, you will find several companies offers. Everything is also a question of money. For 30 euros, there is a view of the border fortifications. For 75 Euro you can the way of pacing, on the political leaders of the two countries were on the way, as you together to the DMZ on Saturday. In the event of unforeseeable events, elevated political tensions, or skirmishes between border guards, the Tour will be cancelled. Without The Refund.

I decide me for a quote, we can also with a Defector from North Korea speak. In front of a classy Hotel in the city centre, we get on the Bus, a last look at the luxury and welfare of Seoul’s stand. Only a few kilometres behind the border of the city, a completely different Scenery. Barbed wire lines the road. To prevent a possible Invasion of North Korea, told the tour guide. Probably, people have become accustomed to the sight of these defenses. With us, he triggers a slightly depressed mood, which our tour guide with jokes about South and North Korea countered.

A seller of travel in Seoul will bring visitors into the DMZ

Just before the control point to the DMZ we stop at a visitor center. It seems as if virtually any coach makes with border tourists Stop here to hear a chorus of many voices of different languages. In addition to the crowded Parking lot, there are Korean and American-style fast food and a small Playground. Our tour guide says, here children can play while adults are in the war.

It is serious

Now it’s just a military check point of the DMZ that separates us. Slight nervousness is spreading. Meticulously soldiers check our passports. When one is missing. So all back again by the count, and again by the control. No Quarter, though we are obviously tourists.

We come from North Korea is getting closer and closer. As we are driving the only safe road along an active mine field on a steep hill directly next to it, trying to our guide to reassure us with a sense of Humor. He made the trip, apparently, on a number of occasions without having to be in the air flying.

On a hill there is a viewing platform from which you can see the neighbors to the North. Could see. On this cloudy day the view is so bad, that we are able to recognize just the huge flag mast of the North Korean Phantomdorfs Kijong-dong.

Beyond the haze the village dummy Kijong lies-dong in North Korea

Continue to the “third Tunnel”. He is one of four North Korean tunnels discovered by South Korea since 1974. Pyongyang claimed that the tunnels were built in order to promote coal. The South Korean side thought that the Tunnel should be used in a possible Invasion of North Korea.

On the way to the last Station of our Tour, we put on helmets; we are approaching up to 200 meters of the border to North Korea. To use the strictly military area, cameras, or phones is prohibited. We could run from here, in fact, to North Korea, only a few barriers and a barbed-wire fence separating us from the neighbors to the North. I’d rather not.

A Turncoat told

Barbed wire fences are a constant companion on the Tour

While the number of international guests to show our group up to the end, curious and impressed, seems to be a young Korean girl to be completely uninterested. Most of the time she sits still and impassive through your phone bent. She wanted to confirm every prejudice about young Koreans.

On the return journey, we learn that she is the Turncoat from North Korea, we are to take on the Tour. A little shy, she tells us the story of their escape. Grew up on the border to China, have you done it via a dangerous Route through China and Vietnam to South Korea, translated the tour guide. You keep the contact to their Relatives in North Korea and send them money regularly.

I ask you, how you feel on these tourist tours, in direct proximity to North Korea. At the beginning she was full of fear, when the Bus to the border was approaching, she says. In the meantime, you can feel safe and know that no one could take her away if you tell on such trips in the DMZ of your story.

Photos with Cartoon-versions of Korean soldiers on both sides of the border for free

Back in Seoul

At the beginning of our Tour in the DMZ, our Guide had said we should feel on the journey “home” to. This reminds me of Seoul quite easily. In spite of a secret military tunnel, in spite of rockets directed at the city. It seems to be possible to forget all of this. Most of the people in Seoul do not ignore their neighbor to the North, but they care more about themselves. While the Berlin wall was not a 30 years life of the people of the Demilitarized Zone for over 65 years. The Cold war continues here.