Toma 7 bis: Dmz (english version)

by darribas

All the international students in the Summer School are required to hand in four essays on the four field trips we´ve taken along this month. Of course, the language is english, no spanish allowed. Somehow, I had already reviewed all of them here, but some of them only in spanish, and this has proved very useful when I was in front of my latop trying to figure out the final papers.

Now I´ll try to give the blog back the help it offered me when trying to write them and I´ll upload all the final essays here so that my foreign friends (or anyone interested in reading english about my life here) can stay tuned. Here is the one for the DMZ.

Field Trip 2: The DMZ

July 28th. was the one reserved to take a closer glance at the current political situation of Korea and the way we did it was taking a tour to the DeMilitarized Zone (DMZ). Since the main aim of this paper is at telling my personal impressions of the trip and the thoughts the area made me have, I will not say much about the sad history of this 4Km long times 248Km long enclave which was created in 1948 to divide Korea in two new states: North Korea, under the soviet influence; and South Korea, under the UN control. Thus I´ll focus on my personal experience.

Due to a strange reason I still disclaim, I was always seduced by everything concerning North Korea. Over the last months, I´ve had the chance to read a bit more about the issue, and the more I read, the more amazed I get. But everything I can read means nothing once you compare it with real feelings and real sceneries I was able to experience along this field trip.

Everything starts off at the Civilian Checkpoint, a place totally surrounded by nettings, anti-tank elements and needles on the road to prevent the “enemy” to get away. Of course, it´s only military people who control the place, and every move further from the scheduled is totally forbidden.

We first pay a visit to the Freedom Bridge (also known as the Bridge of no return), the only one connecting the North and the South and the one which was used by lots of war captives to cross and get finally separated from their homes when the split took place. Then we spend some minutes in a couple of balconies from which one can glance the DMZ and even the North (if the day is clear enough which, of course, was not the case the day we went there). No pictures are allowed. It sounds sort of funny or, at least, ironic that this place is called the Demilitarized Zone one you are talking to the area in the world with the highest density of personal mines per squared metre, but so it is.

The visit ends by taking a look to one of the tunnels the North tried to dig in order to infiltrate in the South but was discovered before they could finished. Today, the area looks more like a theme park than like a warfare area (we can´t forget that no peace treaty has been signed so far): little train to take you down to the tunnel (wich is many metres under the ground), many panels explaining how the South discovered the northern neighbour was cheating, a movie hall where they show a short clip about the future reunification and even a souvenir shop so that the tourist can take home the real DMZ experience in the form of a T-shirt or a cap.

There also exists the chance to go to Panmunjeom, right in the middle of the DMZ, but in wasn´t included in our “tourist pack”. One of the feelings the day left me is that of they have turned such a serius and sad area into a theme park about the Cold War and the Korean War. Even the guide told us that when the South open it up to visitants, the North complaint. The funny point is they didn´t complain because of fact the South was open the area to tourist but because of the fact they (the North) were not making money with such an enterprise. Once you listen to a couple of stories about the South and the North, it looks like the-cat-and-the-mouse story rather than the serious and sad situation it actually is, in which hundreds of people are suffering or even dying.

The most thrilling part of the place is that it´s full of contradictions and stories which reflect and let you understand (if there´s something to be understood) the world we live in´s nonsense. Certainly, you only need to be slightly human to be frightened by what this land means: basically, it´s all about a country divided in two because a high-range serviceman thought world would be better if so, then he grabbed a National Geographic map (true), wised up to the fact parallel 38 leaves half the coutry in the north and he other half in the south and said: this wil be the border. And so has it been hitherto.