Sunday, May 17, 2009

Lessons Learned Visiting the DMZ

If you want to be free, there is but one way; it is to guarantee an equally full measure of liberty to all your neighbors. There is no other. ~Charles Shurz-General in the American Civil War~

Tyler and I were fortunate enough to get on a USO tour of the DMZ. It is a neutral area between North and South Korea about two miles wide that splits the country in half. It felt anything but neutral. The ground in the DMZ has not had a human set foot on it for over 50 years now. Plants and animal life are left to grow as mother nature intended.
South Korea is protected and supported by the countries represented on these flags. They told us that they use to fly the flags until once during some negotiations they caught NK soldiers blowing their noses and spitting on two of the flags, so they took them down and just display them in this case.

Pres. Bush made a visit in 2002. Celebrating a railroad that was built connecting the two counties so that South Koreans could visit family members in NK and work in some of the factories there.

ROK soldiers guarding at one of the three stops we made on our tour.

Behind this building we were allowed to look through telescopes into North Korea. But we were not allowed to take pictures of North Korea here.

Camp Kim is where the USO in Seoul is located and where we loaded the bus to begin our tour.

Another stop on our tour we were able to descend 350meters to check out the tunnel the NKoreans spent 4 long years digging to try and sneak into SK. It went quite a distance and they almost made it before being discovered in the 70's. We were again not allowed to take pictures in the tunnel, but the next 5 pictures are of the park the South Koreans built where the tunnel is located. Always tall fences with barbed wire in the background. (Click on the pictures to enlarge.)

Lessons Learned... Continued.

Ballinger Hall is where the military tells us proper behavior while we are on the pictures, until we are given permission to take them by the MP, no gestures or talking to NK soldiers, no walking anywhere unless given permission to do so, etc. and you sign a waiver saying you understand that you are taking a risk with no guarantee of safety by visiting this facility.
"In Front of Them All" is the motto for this camp because of their proximity to NK. About 10 miles.
They have a one hole golf course here that was photographed and dubbed by Sports Illustrated
as "The most dangerous golf course in the world" because of its location.
The DMZ is protected by many countries. With South Korea providing the most men. It is mandatory in this country for all men to do 2 years of active duty service beginning at age 18.
The US is second in the number of military personel stationed here. The U.S. men that serve here have to score a higher apptitude, and be very physicaly fit to get assigned duty at this place, and they serve for only one year at this post.

North Korean soldier standing guard of the "NK Welcome Center"

There are cameras all over the place on both the NK side and the SK side. The MP told us we could "go ahead and take pictures of this guy", and he said "I guarantee they are taking pictures of you right now. If you are on facebook they will know who you are in about 30 minutes."
In 1994 a Russian from NK was taking a tour on the NK side and decided to make a run for freedom down those stairs. It ended up in confrontation with four people loosing their lives. Three were North Koreans trying to keep him there and one was an American soldier.
The guy made it across to safety and freedom.
The soldiers stay half hidden incase any NK decides to take a shot at them.
The blue barracks are where meetings take place.

Tyler and I standing next to a ROK (Republic of Korea) Soldier. We are standin in North Korea on this side of the building. These guys don't smile, and we were told not to talk to them.

This table is in the middle of the room. It is where both sides will spend time negotiating when they meet. Those are microphones in the middle of the table.

Korea is the only divided country in the world.

Sculpture depicting the world trying to put Korea back together again.

There are over 2 million land mines placed along the border of the DMZ on the SK side to keep the NK soldiers out.

I had such a great appreciation for the work our military does after visiting this place.
Their special forces unit that is assigned to the DMZ has to be able to be dressed and combat ready within 60 seconds at any given moment. The record is 43 seconds.
I thought about the song "War, What Is It Good For?"
And decided that sometimes the answer to that question is Liberty and Freedom. {Priceless.} After that, maybe absolutely nothing.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Yongso Falls

"Let us erect in the Basin a lofty fountain
suckled on ponds.
The spirit craves a watery mountain"
Wallace Stevens~poet~

When the mountain gets to steep for a trail they just build stairs. We climbed about 2 miles of these, but it does get you to the top.

Just cooling off.