Saturday, May 12, 2007

DPRK, Day 6

Day 6. DMZ, Concrete Wall, Koryo Museum, tomb of King Kongmin, Kaesong.

The drive from Pyongyang to the DMZ took 2 and a half hours. There were a number of security checkpoints along the way, at which the assistant guides aka watcher dudes' secret identity was finally unveiled: soldiers were giving them salutes - aha!

The Demilitarised Zone is a 4km stretch on the 38th parallel. The section tourists get to go is called Panmumjom. Inside the DMZ are a number of buildings of historical importance. This is the one where the armistice was signed.

Adjacent to the building a collection of pictures are shown. The Kim-is-admired-around-the-world illustration is of course included.

We headed further south towards the Joint Security Area and the 38th parallel. The road has concrete blocks on the sides which can be dropped in case of a tank attack.

Remember the hovercraft chase scene on James Bond: Die Another Day? He flies on this muddy road full of landmines with his hovercraft and there's even a waterfall somewhere. Not that I would believe anything in the Bond movies, I was still a little surprised to see farmhouses and farms dotted around the DMZ.

The 38th parallel, with the South Korean building on the background. The small houses are conference halls and the line runs through the middle of all of them. The blue ones are North Korean and the others South.

View of the Line - the very low "wall" where the 2 guys are standing). While we would probably get shot if we were to cross the line outside, we were free to hop back and forth inside the house. The place was very very quiet and there was virtually no one in the south side. Apparently soldiers don't even stand outside unless tourists are around. We didn't understand why everyone was armed when it's a demilitarised zone?
We travelled east of Panmunjom to observe the Concrete Wall, built by the US aggressors on the south side of the line to divide the country. It is allegedly 240 km long, 5 to 8 meters high and 7 meters wide at the top.

The day was way too overcast and hazy for us to see the wall clearly from the distance. We could see some kind of structure but we couldn't work out whether it 's just a border or a wall. It looked more like a bank behind a fence but who knows (someone please google earth it). I wonder why we weren't allowed a closer look? Landmines?
The General explained in feigning sadness how the wall separates the people of the same blood from reunifying, and even animals cannot pass through. He was an interesting character, very entrepreneurial as well (email me on this one).

After the Concrete Wall we got to see the Koryo Museum, converted from an 11th century Confucian college. Exhibits include valuable Koryo artifacts and relics.
The 1000 year old ginko tree in the garden.

The tomb of the 31st King of Koryo, Kongmin, and the tomb of his queen on his side.

The guardians of the tombs: 2 officials and 2 soldiers.

After the tombs we finally got to have a short stroll in Kaesong city, the capital of Koryo (918-1392). The Nam Gate was built in 1391 as 1 of the 7 gates of the fort. It is the only one standing today.

View of Kaesong from Kwandok Pavilion(1780).
We stayed at the Kaesong Korean Traditional Hotel for the night. The rooms are in small clusters with gardens and courtyards. Very unique indeed!
The traditional bedding arrangement was quite comfortable. Except the pillow was way too hard and tall. To our surprises there was some kind of floor heating arrangement when we went to bed, even thought the electricity was out.

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