Posted by: rbbadger | April 4, 2009

Back from the DMZ

Well, I’m back now from 板門店, otherwise known as Panmunjeom (or if you prefer the McCune-Reichauer Romanization of Korean, P’anmunjŏm).  This trip to the DMZ actually went better than the last trip I made did, given that North Korea wasn’t running tourists of its own through the buildings straddling the DMZ.  I was not able to enter the blue UN buildings last time I was up there.  This time, I was.  I was a bit concerned that, given the fact that North Korea is likely to launch a rocket in the coming days, I wouldn’t be.  However, all in all it was pretty uneventful.

I met up with the group at the luxurious Lotte Hotel in central Seoul.  I paid the fees there to the travel agent and boarded the bus.  Traffic, thankfully, was not heavy.  The sites we saw were familiar to me, given that I had been there once before.  Once again, there were large numbers of Japanese tourists.  A Korean woman handled the Japanese tourists and our guide was a Korean man in his 20s.  The last time I went, I had a older Korean man in his 70s who had a much thicker Korean accent.

This time, the North Korean guards weren’t really present.  They were probably watching us from the windows of the watchtowers (which they’ve recently renovated) and at least one of them was on the steps of P’anmungak (판문각), the large hall that North Korea has constructed on their side.  We were told that we were being watched.  Before we entered the blue UN building straddling the border, we were told to be very careful with what we said, as North Korea was listening to everything that was being said.  I did get to walk from one side of the room to the other.  On half of the building is North Korean territory.  The other half of the building is South Korean.

South Korea does have a village located within the DMZ.  Daeseongdong, a small village, is made up mostly of farming families.  They are exempted from all forms of taxation and compulsory military service.  However, there are restrictions on what they can and can’t do.  Also, if they are away from the village for a long period of time, they automatically loose the right to live there.  Additionally, soldiers from the South Korean army accompany the farmers as they work in the fields, as North Korean soldiers have physically harrassed residents of the village in the past. 

In the gift shop, they were selling North Korean money, something which is hard to come by.  I was able to procure some samples of it.  When tourists go to North Korea, they aren’t allowed to use the local money.  Rather, they have to use either US dollars or euros.  Given that one of the ways in which North Korean supports itself is by counterfeiting US money, they are eager to come up with as many samples of it as they can.

I will be posting some photos in the next few days.  I took a few, though again, there are restrictions on where and when you can photograph.

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Responses

  1. Hi Robert!

    I commented before we left for SLC, but it didn’t post it. Sorry! Glad you had a good trip to the DMZ and got back safely! We’ll be waiting to see the pictures! We are have a great time! Paul’s Mission President, Elder Pearson, spoke in the session we went to the Conference Center today for. THRILLING!!! He also got to see his companion, Elder Moss! We just got back from eating at the traditional…Hires.
    Love ya! ~Mama

  2. My responses aren’t showing up. I don’t know why! Glad you are back safely! We’re having a great time in SLC. Can’t wait to see your DMZ pics!


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