Last weekend, we took a tour of the DMZ with my parents. My mom did a fantastic job of writing up the tour and sharing some of the information we learned, so I’m going to direct you to her post on her blog and just share my own photos with you here.
Going down into the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel was a really interesting experience – it’s frightening how much North Korea was able to do unnoticed. The tunnel is big enough to push through 30,000 soldiers an hour, and the entrance is only 27 miles from Seoul!
Dorasan is the last South Korean station on a line stretching into North Korea. The dream is to be able to take it all the way across Asia to Europe, but currently Dorasan is the last stop and services 4 trains from Seoul daily, mostly carrying tourists.
We used Koridoor tours through the USO, and overall they did a great job, but there were two things from their tour that were annoying enough to make me seek out another tour company next time we use one.
The tour itinerary when I bought the tickets was:
08:00 : Departure from Camp Kim USO
08:50 : Unification Bridge
09:00 : The 3rd infiltration Tunnel
10:15 : Dora Observatory
10:50 : Dorasan Station
11:20 : Lunch at the Korean Restaurant (not included)
12:20 : Imjingak Park
12:50 : Departure to Seoul -Ginseng or Amethyst Center
14:30 : Arrive at Camp Kim USO
Without giving us any explanation for the change, we were given 30 minutes total for the 90-minute scheduled “Lunch at the Korean Restaurant” and Imjingak Park. We weren’t behind on time at all, so I have no idea why this decision was made. Our only food choices, because of the short time window, were a coffee shop with a few cookies and a Popeye’s. Which also meant that we barely got to see anything at Imjingak Park because we were all waiting around for (rather disgusting) food. I will say that the coffee shop at Imjingak Park served up some very excellent lattes!
The other complaint I have about the tour was the stop at the so-called “Amethyst Center.” I am no stranger to these kinds of tours, and I know that a stop at a place for a sales pitch of some kind is par for the course, but in all the countries I’ve experienced this in, there is always a demonstration and speech about why the particular trade matters to the country. The “Amethyst Center” was a stop at an expensive jewelry store back in Seoul. There was no speech about why – or if – amethysts are an important part of Korean trade, no demonstrations of jewelry making or explanation of why we were there, just a vague, “Go buy something here, it’s really nice stuff, see you back on the bus.” Which was parked back around the building where we were left off and was a longish walk in the cold.
I do have an email out to Koridoor about this and haven’t heard back, so I will come back and give an update if they respond.