Panmunjeom

Overview

Introduction

The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the most heavily armed area in the world, separates North Korea from South Korea and can be visited at Panmunjeom on a full-day organized sightseeing tour from Seoul. Be choosy in selecting a tour. If space is available, sign up for one that lets you walk into the Third Tunnel of Aggression (it was dug by North Korea to infiltrate the South), offers an opportunity to stand on the Freedom Pavilion (where you can stare at North Korean soldiers who peer back at you through binoculars) and allows you to enter the room where the two sides still hold negotiations. (If the Armistice Commission is actually meeting, the treaty site is closed, but it's possible at those times to get permission to observe the talks. Check with the Korea National Tourism Organization in Seoul for details.)

Other tour options include stops at various monuments and museums en route, a full military briefing about the history of the area, and a meal in the soldiers' mess hall and/or a drink in the noncommissioned officers' club.

You may feel some tension during the visit—troops on both sides are on high alert, and the area has been the site of small but dramatic (and lethal) confrontations over the years. A visit to the DMZ is worthwhile if you want to get an understanding of modern Korean society. Be sure to book your tour a few days in advance and remember to take your passport with you: Tourists must be approved by the government prior to visiting the DMZ. Panmunjeom is 35 mi/55 km north of Seoul.

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