The trip to the DMZ was amazing, and I highly recommend booking through the USO after today's experience. We left promptly at 7:30am and drove for about an hour to Camp Bonifas. At the base, we met US military personnel who guided us through the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). We were only allowed to take photos in a few areas, so although I saw many fascinating things, I can't share them all with you.
Those of you who have gone on the tour may recall the atmosphere of heightened tension in Panmunjeom where the Joint Security Area (JSA) is located. Here, we stood about 100 meters away from North Korean (KPA) soldiers; it was sobering to say the least. Fortunately the Republic of Korea (ROK) soldiers and US military police were on hand for our protection.
If you look very closely, you can see a KPA soldier in the background. He's looking at us through binoculars:
After this adrenaline rush, we headed to an on-base museum to learn more about the historical events and context. From there, we hiked through the Third Tunnel -one of four tunnels dug by the KPA to infiltrate Seoul and the surrounding area. This particular tunnel is about 150 meters below ground and nearly 5,200 feet long. Amazing to think that it's a real tunnel and not a Disney attraction. Both the walk down and hike back up were intense.
Unification of the countries is the hope of many. Here is a sculpture symbolizing the sentiment:
Were I not so energy-deficient after today's activity, I'd elaborate on my DMZ impressions and discuss the rest of the day; however, I cannot remember the last time I felt this tired. In short, I am deeply grateful for the countless blessings in my life and the abundant freedoms + privileges I enjoy all because I'm an American citizen. It is only by Grace that I was born in the United States, and today was a pointed reminder of how incredibly fortunate I am. The contrast between the comfortable existence I've had all my life and the oppressive environment across the border was stark and vivid.