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The most popular and in high demand tour within the Korean tourist industry is the DMZ/JSA tour.
What is the DMZ/JSA tour? DMZ means the demilitarized zone and JSA means join security area. This is the border area of North and South Korea. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, Panmunjeom (JSA) became the world’s last remaining outpost where democracy and communism stare at each other face to face in a tense standoff with political and historic meaning.
During the DMZ/JSA tour, you will be able to see the 4km-wide, 240km-long borderline, known as the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) across the peninsula, separating North and South Korea. On both sides of the boarder tank traps, electrical fences, landmines, and armies in full battle readiness are all in place, it is one of the scariest places on earth. It is also one of the most surreal place to visit, since it has become a major tourist attraction with several observatories allowing tourist to peek into North Korea. For history buffs and collectors of strange, unique, and unsettling experiences, a visit here is not to be missed.
Most people want to visit the Joint Security Area (JSA), 55km north of Seoul, inside of which is the truce village of Panmunjeom, more than anywhere else. There is nowhere else in South Korea where you can get a closer look towards North Korea and at North Korean soldiers without being arrested or shot, and you can feel the tension during the DMZ/JSA tour. The only way into this heavily restricted area is on an organized DMZ/JSA tour – note citizens of certain countries are not allowed on these tours. There are also strict dress and behavioral codes.
After the Armistice Agreement was signed, the JSA became a neutral location where the guards from both sides were allowed to move about freely. The JSA occupied within a perimeter of 800 meters in diameter and it was the only place in the DMZ where the Military Demarcation line (MDL) was originally not clearly marked. That changed after the North Korean guards murdered two of the United Nations Command (UNC) officers with axes on August 18th, 1976. After the Ax Murder incident, the MDL was marked within the JSA, and that marking system continues until today. Today, the only place where border crossings are allowed is inside the conference buildings of the Military Armistice Commission (MAC). The MDL in the JSA is marked with one hundred and twenty-six 1 meter-high white stakes, along the boundary line a 10-meter interval. In the rest of the DMZ, the boundary is marked with MDL Markers. Each side owns six guard posts in the JSA and on more than thirty-five armed guards can be present on each side. The JSA is a venue for exchanges and negotiations between the North and South. All kinds of political and economic issues, cultural conferences, and Red Cross meetings are held in the JSA.
Panmunjeom is located inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), and it is the most forward location in the DMZ that can be visited by civilians. The administrative address is Kyunggi-do Paju-si Jinseo-myun Neolum-li (for the South Korean portion), and Kaesung-jikhalsi Panmun-joon Panmunjeom-ri (for the North Korean side). Although Panmunjeom is the common name of the area, the official name of the negotiating site is the Joint Security Area (JSA). Panmunjeom is located in the western portion of the 155-mile long DMZ on the Military Demarcation Line (MDL), which you will be visiting during the DMZ/JSA tour and it demonstrates the great sorrow of the divided country. It is 62 kilometers northwest of Seoul, the capital of South Korea, and 215 kilometers south of Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, 10 kilometers from Kaesong.
During the DMZ Tour from Seoul, you will drive along the Freedom Road, the flat and straight highway connecting the capital with the DMZ. Buses eventually reach the Imjingang River, crossed by the Unification Bridge and this is the end of the line for most civilians. If you’re with a DMZ tour group, however, you’ll pass through an army checkpoint at the southern end of the bridge and cross into the Civilian Limit Zone and into the Joint Security Area, or JSA. The Unification Observatory is located in the northernmost part of Korea. Over 2 million people visit here every year. From the observatory platform on the 2nd floor, you can see North Korea through binoculars and if the weather is clear, North Koreans will be visible to be seen.
The Joint Security Area itself is iconic, especially if you’ve seen Park Chan-wook’s 2000 film, “JSA.” This small cluster of buildings - some impressive, some humble - was born in 1953 following the signing of the Armistice Agreement (“ending” the Korean War) in the actual village of Panmunjeom, which was located about 800 meters to the north but has since disappeared. The JSA - widely referred to as “Truce Village” - was used for regular meetings between North Korean and UN military officials (the Military Armistice Committee, or MAC) to supervise the implementation of the armistice. It is now used primarily for inter-Korean meetings.
During the DMZ tour, you’ll be placed in the middle of this very modern Korean civil war and have the rare opportunity to safely see North Korea up close and personal. And although the tension is still very much real, with our guided DMZ tour, you’ll be safe just like the thousands of tourists that visit the JSA yearly without incident. This is a one of kind chance to enter a warless warzone found nowhere else in the world.
We hope you to enjoy our DMZ/JSA tour!!