When visiting South Korea, one of the top destinations to travel to is the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone). It is the border between South Korea and North Korea. It is a 4 kilometer stretch of land that runs all the way across the border. South Korea owns the 2 kilometers to the South and North Korea owns the 2 kilometers to the North. Traveling to the DMZ is not something you can do on your own. You must book your trip with a touring company in Korea. There are many DMZ tour packages available online to choose from. When traveling from Seoul, it will take you 2 hours by car or bus to get to the DMZ. Avoid going to the DMZ on a Saturday or a Tuesday as these are the two busiest tourist days at the DMZ. Also remember, TAKE YOUR PASSPORT!
Joint Security Area (JSA)
You will first arrive at the Joint Security Area (JSA) when you start your tour. The JSA is a neutral meeting place inside the DMZ. All communication between North Korea and South Korea takes place at JSA. It is sometimes called the “Truce Village” and is the only portion of the DMZ where the two sides can meet face to face. This is where Donald Trump met with Kim Jong Un back in 2019. They will tell you to leave all your bags on the bus however you will be allowed to bring your phone and camera. You will also be required to sign a document acknowledging that you know you are entering a hostile area.
From here you will go on another bus that will take you directly to the DMZ. However, there is a strict dress code that focuses mainly on not having any slogans that might offend North Korea. The soldier guiding the tour will also tell you not to make any contact via waving, speaking, and etc. to the North Korean soldiers.
The Freedom House
Once arriving at the DMZ, you will be led into the Freedom House. The Freedom House has meeting rooms that sit on the border of South and North Korea. Therefore, once you pass the conference table which is in the middle of the Conference room, you are technically in North Korea. Here you will be able to take pictures for a very limited time. You will even be allowed to take pictures with the guards. These guards are the best of the best of the Korean military and must hold a black belt in Taekwondo.
The Conference Road holds the Conference room along with 3 other buildings colored in blue or gray. The gray buildings belong to North Korea and the blue buildings belong to South Korea. From here you will be able to see North Korean soldiers guarding their posts. However, here you will be allowed to take more pictures for a limited time.
The Dora Observatory is where you will be able to see North Korea. It is a 304 square feet, 500-person capacity observatory. There are many high-powered binoculars you can use for 500 won (2 minutes). This is the only place where you can get a wide view of North Korea. Make sure to check out the Propaganda Village which is completely empty and is basically a fake village built by North Korea. In addition, you will be able to see a massive North Korean flag pole which is the highest flagpole in the world. Moreover, what is interesting about the observatory is that it blasts Kpop music and messages of capitalism on a continuous loop into North Korea. Propaganda from North Korea is also played towards South Korea.
You will be able to check out the infiltration tunnels built by North Korea in hopes of one day invading South Korea. In total there have been four tunnels that have been discovered. The first tunnel was discovered in 1974 and the most recent was in 1990. Furthermore, one of the tunnels is so big that it can bring in over 30,000 troops into South Korea per hour. The tunnels can go as deep as 75 meters below ground. Sadly, you will not be able to film or take pictures inside the tunnels.
Visiting the DMZ in Korea is a one-day trip. There are no hotels, motels, or even pensions in Korea anywhere close to the DMZ. So make sure you plan ahead and go with an experienced travel company. There is also a half-day tour that will last around 5 hours.