After pickup from your Seoul hotel in the morning, hop aboard your comfortable coach and head to the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which divided North and South Korea during the Korean War. Now the world’s most heavily fortified border, the DMZ includes historical sites of conflict as well as the last remnants of the Cold War.
Drive along Freedom Road, which stretches along the banks of the Imjin River – bordered by an 8-foot (2.4-meter) razor wire fence and military watch posts – and stop in Imjingak Park to see artillery used during the Korean War. Continue to Freedom Bridge and explore the area on foot as you learn from your guide about the nearly 13,000 POWs who crossed on their return to freedom in South Korea.
Re-board the coach and head to the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel, believed to have been planned as a military invasion route by North Korea. In the DMZ exhibition hall, which now stands as a monument to peace, you’ll see photographs and war artifacts on display. Afterward, head to the Dora Observatory to look through telephoto lenses and observe the village of Kijongdong as your guide describes life on the other side. After a stop at Dorasan Station, proceed to the Unification Village to witness life in this small farming community.
Your guide will take your group to a local restaurant for lunch before the Panmunjom portion of your tour. Situated in the middle of the DMZ, this former ‘truce village’ was the site of the 1953 armistice, ending the Korean War and splitting the peninsula in two. The JSA was established as the negotiating site between North Korea and the United Nations Command (UNC) and is now used for diplomatic dialogue by the two Koreas.
First, pass through a series of checkpoints where your ID will be verified, and stop at Camp Bonifas, a small base where about 5,000 U.S. and South Korean soldiers reside just 440 yards (402 meters) south of the DMZ. Disembark from the bus and head to Ballinger Hall to watch a slideshow, hear historical facts about the JSA’s significance and receive a briefing.
Visit the Freedom House, a four-story building topped with a transparent roof, a facility that functions as a liaison between the South and the North. Visit a conference room and hear how the house supports various forms of inter-Korean dialogue, contracts and exchanges.
Your final stop is the Bridge of No Return, first used for POW exchanges in 1953. The bridge was named for the irreversible choice of whether to remain in the country of their captivity or return to their place of origin. Walk halfway across until you reach the demarcation line, and imagine the thousands who never reunited in their communist homelands. Afterward, your guide will accompany your group back to Ballinger Hall before your return to Seoul.