Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tuesday, May 17, 2011 (Seoul, DMZ, South Korea)

AT THE DMZ--WHAT PART OF "NO" DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND? Took a tour north from Seoul to the DMZ. We stopped at Imjingak. Then we went to an eerily empty (but totally modernized) train station. It was built in expectation of eventual in-and-out traffic between the Koreas.
One stop was at the Dora observation deck. Our tour guide mentioned, oh, maybe, eight thousand times that we should take photographs of North Korea from behind a designated BRIGHT YELLOW LINE. (Taking a photo from any other place might give someone a view of the disposition of South Korean military personnel and equipment--which is probably already exposed by something like Google Earth.)
We were told that the ROK military were especially diligent about the cameras and can take the camera away in three languages--English, Chinese and Japanese. (Actually, they will return the camera after deleting the photo.) Anyway, rules are rules. No problem. I took my panoramic shot (above). Upon further review, low and behold, I caught a tourist in the VERY ACT of photographing some of ROK's military emplacements. To help you, the reader, I have circled the man in THREE versions of the photo (above and at right). VERY shortly after the photo was taken, a guard did, in fact, grab the camera and set things right with the man.
From this spot, you can see Kijong-dong, which certainly looks like the Potemkin village that the South Koreans say it is.

TUNNEL VISION: We also went to the Third infiltration tunnel, which is a pretty daunting place. Hard-hatted visitors trek down a steep-sloped 358-meter walkway to intersect with one of the tunnels that North Korea evidently tried to build to bust deep into South Korean territory. Then, visitors walk about 250 meters to a barrier. That horizontal walk requires some crouching for anyone taller than 5 feet 6 inches or so.
We weren't allowed to take pictures in the tunnel, and I noticed NOBODY doing it. What I did notice was a LOT of elderly tourists (mostly from China) making this grueling trek underground. Very impressive in their dogged determination to do this.
The map above shows the arrangement.
I also included (at right) a poster touting a special DMZ chocolate. I didn't find it, but it offers a good illustration of the way South Korea has parlayed a COMMUNIST incursion into a robust CAPITALIST enterprise. This is one of the busiest tourist destinations in South Korea. Might be the busiest.
The tunnel was discovered in 1978. Number crunchers say that about 10,000 soldiers (small ones, anyway) could move through the tunnel in about one hour.

WINGING IT WITH BIBIMBAP: We caught an evening flight to Bangkok from Incheon Airport. On Korean Air, we had one last taste of Korea. Bibimbap was on the menu, with a special how-to-assemble instructions for those of us unfamiliar with the signature Korean dish. I didn't take a picture (still feeling the effects of the prohibitions on photography from the DMZ), but here's a video from Korean Air that celebrates this dish, which tastes just fine at 34,000 feet:

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