Hawaii Mom Blog: Visit Seoul: DMZ Tour




March 9, 2023

Visit Seoul: DMZ Tour

One of the biggest tourist attractions in South Korea is the DMZ, or demilitarized zone.  I looked through Facebook groups and saw that many people had great experiences on tours booked through Tripadvisor, so we found a highly-rated tour, and booked through VVIP Travel.

A tour bus picks up at two different hotels before heading out to the DMZ.

The tour bus was comfortable, with air conditioning, cup holders, and charging ports.

Once on the tour bus, we met our guide, "Jenny" (she gave herself an American name so tourists can more easily remember her and pronounce her name), who told us all about what to expect, and also gave us the history about the DMZ.
We first ended up at Imjingak Park, which is home to numerous memorials and other significant objects of the Korean War.

Peace Train

Statue of Peace - honoring the victims of sexual slavery during WWII

Mangbaeddan Memorial

Prior to heading out to the tunnel, we browsed some of the area at Imjingak Park, which included an old train from the Korean War, ribbons of hope and peace, the Mangbaeddan memorial, and more.  

A touching monument dedicated to a show that reunited North and South Korean families was adorned with photos from the show, and would play a song "30 Years Lost."

It's pretty heartbreaking when you think about how so many families became separated, most never to see each other again.

After touring the grounds a bit more, we got a bite to eat (there are several eateries onsite).  

Pre-pandemic, 5-thousand visitors were allowed daily.  When we went in October, only 700 were allowed daily, and it was literally a mad scramble amongst tour guides for tickets.  

Each guest must bring a passport, which is verified by soldiers going into and out of the area, as well as at the ticket office.

Pictures are not allowed at certain places, once of which is the 3rd infiltration tunnel, created by the North Koreans.

Our tour guide told us about the discovery of the tunnel, and how it is actually quite challenging to traverse, as it is an 11-degree slope down and then back up.

When we got to the tunnel, she jokingly said "Welcome to hell."  I thought she was exaggerating, but let me just say, it was one of the most difficult walks I've ever experienced.  Going down was not so bad.  

At the end of the tunnel is a hole where you can get a peek into North Korea.  

Then you turn around and make the trek back up.  Going back up was torture.  It wreaked havoc on my legs.  There were several on our tour who had to stop and rest at some of the benches throughout the tunnel.  Everyone must wear helmets, as a portion of the tunnel is very low (North Koreans are said to be shorter in general than South Koreans).  If you're tall, you have to crouch down while squatting through the tunnel. 

I was so glad to have made it out of that tunnel!  We took some touristy pictures outside before we headed to the Odusan Unification Observatory, where we could see North Korea.

You can see both the North Korea and South Korea flags.
The North Korea flag was made to stand taller than the South Korea flag.

We then did a quick stop at a cafe and gift shop, where we indulged in Black Sesame Ice Cream, and I bought bottles of a ginseng drink to bring back home.

Coincidentally, while we were on the tour, North Korea fired its first missile in years over Japan.  I didn't know this until we got back to our hotel, but while on the tour bus, our tour guide stated that the missile firings don't bother them.  

What happened and continues to happen between North Korea and South Korea is tragic, and I feel for the families who have been separated since.  

The DMZ Tour was informative and enlightening, and I highly recommend going on one to get a better understanding of the division between North and South Korea, and the impact it has had worldwide.

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