On The Borderline... DPRK's Panmunjom Village & Demilitarised Zone!

Suited and booted in our best, it was time for the lengthy drive along the Reunification Highway from Pyongyang City to Korea's Demilitarised Zone. The journey brought us face to face with the Peninsula's southern border. Being 'On The Borderline' took a who new meaning during that Panmunjom Village military escorted visit. Those guards were looking sharp, it was a moment! 

The DMZ had been on my list of places to visit within the Korea's, but Panmunjom isn't accessible from the southern side so my ultimate trip to the DPRK had to be the one. Breakfast was a blur that morning but we all made it down to one of the restaurants for something to eat before we boarded the coach for the long journey to the borderline. Those North Korean roads made me feel just fine and dandy, it was going to be fine! Honestly, I was hanging on by a thread! Passing underneath the 'Reunification Monument' onto the highway that shared the same name kickstarted our journey towards DPRKs boundary with South Korea. After stopping at a bizarre gift shop/toilet venue beside a motorway with no traffic, it was something else to process in my head. Making our way closer to Panmunjom, soon enough we pulled into the city of Kaesong that sits on the DMZ borderline with Paju, Kae's southern sister city. Best believe, this was a borderline never to forget! Let me look at those guards! Fine as hell they were! Yes, K!

Word on the street, apparently the best propaganda posters were waiting for us as we arrived at the checkpoint with the DMZ? Grabbing a few things for my students before being briefed about our pursuit to Panmunjom was the just the thing that I needed! Stepping to the beat we were told to, we made our way back onto the coach to the place where the 1953 armistice was signed, halting the vicious Korean War. Accompanied by a selection of delectable soldiers, I reminded my nasty side where I was in that moment, but those uniforms were something else! The stillness inside the building where the United Nations mediated the signing of those important papers felt chillingly still, it was quite interesting not see the stars and stripes, apparently the folks who were representing the U.S forgot to bring their honourable flag? Our YPT group had the whole joint to ourselves for a little bit, we had enough time to take photos before a HK tour group rocked up at the entrance. I was transfixed with that borderline, no breaking up? No, no!

Who had signed that autograph? Hopping back on that coach, we drove the short way from where the 1953 armistice had been signed, we had a borderline to see! Back to that monument, I wanted to know more! Our military guard who had accompanied through the village was back to mind us, well inform us and to guide along the correct path. He told us a lot about the area, such fascinating facts he had for us. The DMZ had been a place that had become heavily fortified and movement between the Democratic People's Republic and the Republic of Korea wasn't the way to go. Effectively the border remained firmly closed in that moment but the hope for reunification always has a place for the Korean people, the guard had told us that he wanted to see both Korean leaders make a plan for the near future, for relations to improve from their frozen status. It was like we had our own window into the world, our view of Inter-Korean politics was our to gaze into the distance with many of the guard's expressions clear. Madness!

Before our moment facing those blue huts and the South, we had one more place to visit. No, we were't going back to the gift shop because people really wanted to be on that borderline! That monument, yes! The large stone installation had been commissioned to show the replica of Kim Il Sung's final signature, probably signed at the bottom of a letter? That supposed letter had a clear wish for reunification for both the North and South to meet again, to break down the borderline to make way for 'One Korea'. For us to see that special signing had us thinking, will this borderline cease to exist in the future? Will the Korean Peninsula throw away the rule book, drawing a line in the sand to finally end the armistice that was signed in 1953? Now, we didn't have the answer to that, Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-In will both need to meet in the middle near that 'signed' monument to discuss those finer policies. Now, I really wanted to be on the borderline, patience is a virtue, I listened well and followed with the group. Oh, those uniforms! 

Backtracking to Seoul for a few seconds, I honestly looked at visiting the DMZ from the southern side, but it was all wishy-washy about what days were available. In the present time on the northern side, we approached the viewpoint of those blue U.N huts and the south's sleek DMZ headquarters. We weren't allowed to take any photos of the northern buildings, that was fine with me because from where we were standing it was such a still and captivating view to even take a second thought. Our guides proceeded to point to the location that Kim and Moon had their summit meeting, we were able to catch a glimpse of that powerful borderline marking that the South Korean leader stepped over to begin those ground breaking talks between the two K's, For those of us with Chinese mobiles it was a moment to remember, our phones pinged back to life for a brief second with Seoul mobile signal! I didn't check WeChat! Out of respect of the Korean guides and the protocol, I kept my phone out of view and closed. I knew what to do, PJ! 

It was amazing to see the borderline that gets talked about when both North and South Korea's both hit the headlines, to see such a still and calm situation gave me the impression tensions seem to be easing ever so slightly. Up until that point the morning's proceedings had been quite formal and had involved us walking in soldier-like formations, boarding the coach to leave the DMZ & Panmunjom area allowed me to breath a sigh of relief. Learning about the signing of the 1953 armistice was fascinating, it was quite something to see the southern border with such clarity and stillness. The South had served me scandalous portions! The close watching soldiers who were on duty put the fear in me but at the same time they were quite the eye-candy if truth be told. I'm truly thankful that I was too hungover in Seoul to make reservations for a DMZ tour from the southern side, things looked much better from where we were all standing. It was almost dinnertime, heading into Kaesong City took things into a different avenue. Kae, DMzeee?

South Korean Signal?

Joseph Harrison

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