US President Donald Trump recently made headlines following his visit to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea, where he met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last Sunday, June 30. He also marked history as the first American president to set foot on North Korea, having crossed the border briefly.
Widely known as one of the most heavily guarded borders in the world, the DMZ was established in the 1953 Korean War Armistice Agreement. Located about 50 kilometers north of Seoul, it is a 4-kilometer wide buffer that stretches to 240 kilometers, dividing the Korean Peninsula.
Tension permeates the air here. Surprisingly, though, it is also a popular tourist attraction that draws more than a million visitors each year.
Ready to take a trip to the DMZ? Here are some of the highlights of a visit to what is considered one of the world’s most dangerous places:
Situated right at the northernmost point of the Military Demarcation Line, Dora Observatory invites you to peer through binoculars to catch a glimpse of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK; North Korea). If you visit on a clear day, you will be able to view notable locations in North Korea, including Gaeseong City, DPRK’s light industry center; the statue of Kim Il-sung, the first president of North Korea; and Geumamgol (Cooperation farm). The observatory was opened to the public in 1987 and features 500 seats, VIP rooms, and a vast parking space.
Third Tunnel of Aggression
Not too far from the observatory lies the Third Tunnel of Aggression. Discovered in 1978, it’s one of the four tunnels dug by North Koreans found running under the DMZ. It is believed that these tunnels were created to enable DPRK to launch a surprise attack on the Republic of Korea. This particular tunnel stretches over 1.6 kilometers and has a height and width of 2 meters. What’s even more impressive is that it is capable of mobilizing 30,000 troops in one hour.
Joint Security Area (JSA)
The Joint Security Area (JSA) at Panmunjeom is where the peace talks between North and South Korea were held on October 25, 1951 and July 27, 1953, when the Armistice Agreement was signed. In October last year, the rifting countries and the U.N. Command agreed to withdraw firearms and guard posts from the border as part of the effort to improve the relationship between the two Koreas.
Imjingak Peace Park
Also known as Imjingak Resort, this park lying 7 kilometers from the Military Demarcation Line was built in 1972 as a landmark of hope for the two Koreas to be unified someday.
This memorial marks the place where Koreans were separated from their families in the North. During special occasions like New Year’s Day and Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving), families flock here to perform ancestral rites as a sign of respect.
Bridge of Freedom
South Koreans crossed this historic bridge as they returned to their home country after the signing of the Armistice Agreement. It is located right behind Mangbaedan Altar.
Dorasan Train Station
This railway station on the Gyeongui Line used to connect North and South Korea. As it’s not in regular service, it was restored as a symbol of hope for unification.