Written by: Sandra Stenske
Last weekend we went with Adventure Korea to the county of Cherwon right next to the North Korean border. We were able to see the breathtakingly beautiful nature, get to know the everyday life of the people, enjoy delicious traditional Korean food and above all learn some interesting and important information about the Korean War and visit places that could bring us closer to the war events.
Especially for me as a German citizen, it was very interesting to learn all these things about the relations between North and South Korea.
Just 32 years ago in 1990 the German reunification took place. For 41 years, Germany was divided into two parts by a strict border. Even though I was not yet born then and didn’t experience that time myself, I wonder what it would be like if Germany was still divided today? And what would happen if North and South Korea were to reunite after the German example?
This trip was very thought-provoking, and I can recommend everyone to see the DMZ for themselves and to learn more during the trip.
Our trip started in the morning in Seoul. From there we drove first to the Goseokjeong Canyon. There, not only a beautiful view and a small path down the Canyon to get to the water awaited us, but also some restaurants and cafés, so that we could all enjoy a delicious meal to strengthen us for the upcoming DMZ tour.
After a short bus ride, we arrived at the second infiltration tunnel. This tunnel was dug by North Korean soldiers in an attempt to infiltrate South Korea and cause chaos during wartime. The tunnel is generally only accessible in connection with a DMZ Tour, but this was not possible at all in the last two years. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tunnel was not accessible. Adventure Korea was the first DMZ tour company to get permission to visit the second infiltration tunnel again.
Then we continued with the DMZ tour and went to the Unification Observatory.
Before we could take a look at North Korea, we were shown a short video introducing what places we can see through the binoculars. Then we could finally take a look at North Korea ourselves.
The Unification Observatory is definitely worth visiting if you want to experience a unique look through binoculars.
The next stop was the Woljeongri Station, the last station before North Korea. The last train that ever wanted to go to North Korea is still standing at the abandoned station today. A horrible sight that reminds how cruel and destructive war is.
To complete the DMZ tour, we visited the ruins of the Labour Party Building. The building is covered with bullet holes and shows a gruesome scene of war and a terrible battlefield. The Labour Party building is located above the 38th parallel, which is why it was originally on the North Korean side. After the Korean War, the border shifted a bit and now the building is on the South Korean side.
We were able to gather a lot of impressions and information about the history of the Korean War, as well as about the current relationship of the two countries.
When we arrived at the accommodation for the night, all participants of the tour were very impressed by the activities of the previous day. But the day was far from over.
The program continued quickly and the local inhabitants of the village showed us how they make tofu. We also had the opportunity to try it ourselves. Even though our tofu did not turn out very well, we still had the opportunity to try the tofu made by the villagers – and I can tell you: it was delicious!
Straight after that, we had a Korean BBQ with a lot of meat and different side dishes for dinner.
With full bellies, we sat around the campfire for a long time talking, singing songs and playing the guitar. Of course, there was also a lot of Soju and beer to go with it!
The next morning, after breakfast, we walked to Baekmagoji Battlefield. It was a short walk of about 20 minutes past many rice fields.
A guide welcomed us and told us the sad history of this mountain. He not only showed us the monuments, but also explained what they symbolize.
Our last stop before heading back towards Seoul was at the Goseokjeong Canyon. This time we took a walk of about 4 kilometers through the canyon. We were all excited to see such a beautiful view after the tragic stories of the Korean War. This trail was just build and opened at the end of last year. So it was a new experience for all of us. A great ending for our weekend trip.
In conclusion, the two-day trip to the DMZ in Cherwon is a great experience. The combination of cultural, historical and exciting activities makes this trip fun for everyone. Despite some very depressing stories about the war or the significance of some of the places we visited, the mood was always very good as we were cheered up by beautiful views and shared conversations over dinner.