with the heightened tensions between North and South Korea, the DMZ
remains a huge draw for tourists, corporate incentive groups and meeting
planners looking for that special delegate experience when travelling
to Korea. It is because of these ‘high alert’ situations that the DMZ
holds a certain allure for travellers.
In December 2012, I took
a group of senior national press from the UK, on a day excursion to the
DMZ as part of the BA inaugural press trip to Seoul, even at that time
the North were 24 hours away from a test rocket launch. Most of the
group felt this to be one of the major highlights of their 72 hour visit
to Seoul; the reason being is the DMZ is an utterly unique experience
that creates a cocktail of risk, historical interest and the opportunity
to observe (and even step into) the communist North.
entering the Joint Security Area (JSA) are asked to sign an disclaimer
against a number of potential hazards, advised ‘not to point’ or make
any form of contact whatsoever toward the North Korean guards and follow
our military guide’s instructions to the letter. This is the preamble
to the main event within Freedom House which faces the demarcation line.
DMZ is the ‘frontline’ of visible tensions between the North and South
and the eerie stand-off is most apparent within the JSA – Panmunjom. It
is here that opposing guards keep a constant vigil over each other, as
regimented groups of tourists file into the small blue hut where the
armistice agreement was signed in 1953. On the basis of this very
agreement, the two Koreas are technically still at war and upon which
the last vestiges of the cold war live on.
The DMZ is a major contributor to all Korea’s tourism markets and in the end diplomacy must and will prevail.
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