Quick Intro + Reason for Visit
My name is Elton Chun from Hawaii. I am currently an intern at VANK during the academic year of 2016-2017. As an intern at VANK, you get to travel to many places and experience the Korean culture, especially through food. Unluckily, during my year and because of my occupied schedule, I was not able to travel that much. However, because of this inconvenience VANK gave me a full day to travel together to a place of my choice. As a future Air force officer with hopes of working on US-SK relations, I decided on visiting the Imjingak. Here is my experience:
We decided to meet at Munsan Station, which is the closest station to Imjingak. It took a 2 hour subway ride from where I live and an additional cab ride from Munsan Station to the DMZ. Once we arrived we ate at a Korean traditional restaurant while waiting for our scheduled bus tour ride. During this bus ride, we would stop by many places, 5-10 minute ride between each stop.
A Look at a North Korean Region through Binoculars
The first stop was the “Dorasan Observatory”; a lookout post where we were able to look at the North Korean region of Kaesong. Although far, it was really interesting to see a North Korean region in person. Using the binoculars, we were able to see one of the tallest flagpoles from North Korea and almost a couple miles away from it, the South Korean flagpole.
The next stop, we visited the “Third Tunnel of Aggression” where North Koreans dug up a tunnel underground to infiltrate South Koreans but eventually failed. Going all the way down and through a 2×2 meter tunnel was very painful on my back and going back up was a workout but I wouldn’t say it was worth the trip inside the tunnel. If you are there just to experience being in a long tunnel made by North Koreans then I would give it a visit. If you are there to see artifacts or interesting things, there are none so I wouldn’t recommend giving the tunnel a visit. Taking pictures inside the tunnel was not allowed but I took pictures at the area near the tunnel.
Train Station to Pyongyang
The last stop, we arrived at Dorasan Station which is currently not in use because of current SK-NK relations. People used to travel through this station to Kaesong Industrial Region for work and to transfer materials. The only reason this train is still effective is for the tourists who want to visit the Joint Security Area. This place was very interesting because I have never wondered that people would travel through the borders using train stations.
Gifts and Souvenirs + Last Thoughts
During all the stops, I had the chance to visit some souvenir shops where I had the chance to buy some North Korean alcohol. Also, the Vank staff members presented me with a commemoration gift which I am very thankful for.
Visiting the most guarded border in the world, I felt a sense of seriousness and inconvenience. The 2 countries speak the same language and have the same history but are separated because of the war. The animosity between the two Koreas is very sad to bear and I hope the relations between the two countries can come to a better end, ultimately reunification.
From this trip, I was able to learn and experience a lot about the effects of the Korean War and the current situation between SK and NK. Although it was a sad and intense atmosphere, I had a great time experiencing this. I want to thank the VANK staff for this experience and for taking the whole day off of their work to go to the place of my choice. Thank you so much for this wonderful experience.