Tuesday, August 17, 2010
JSA (Joint Security Area) This is where North and South Korea hold conferences. Notice the dark wood line and the microphones running along the center of the table. The room (and area in general) is divided between the North and South by a line that stretches across the entire area.
Banners can be purchased by visitors to hang on the barbed-wire fences that divide the area
...being totally honest...we were a little terrified of actually going to the DMZ. Especially after hearing about all of the recent conflicts erupting between the North and South. The online information about the DMZ was not that encouraging as well. I quote, "Please wear shoes with a backing so that you will be able to run from gunfire". Thanks to the supportive emails from outside sources (aka. MC), we felt a little better about going.
Actual words cannot really describe what we felt and saw there...but we will try our best. Scared, sad, nervous, angry, suspicious, confused, uncertain, thankful, humbled, helpless,...but hopeful.
We met our tour guide for the day at Lotte Hotel, where we boarded a charter bus with a diverse group of people. We were debriefed as soon as we got on the bus about proper etiquette at the DMZ...wow, we weren't allowed to do anything. Nothing should be done to draw attention. The area was surrounded by soldiers, snipers, and live land mines. The tension was so thick, you could cut it with a knife. A South Korean soldier boarded our charter bus to check our attire, ID's, and our passports (which were the only things we were allowed to carry off the bus).
Our first stop on the tour was to view an educational video about the history and future of the DMZ/JSA. We then went to the JSA and toured some of the buildings, in two single file lines...facing forward. Much of the sight seeing happened on the bus, but we also got to see landmarks such as Freedom Bridge and a train that had been bombed during a conflict. Looking back on this experience, we are glad that we had the chance to do it. We were standing in the center of years and years of conflict and barriers, looking through the eyes of 3 individuals who have unlimited freedoms...a truly humbling experience.