After the Korean War ended in July 1953, a 250 kilometer-long, 4 kilometer-wide cease-fire zone known as the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) was established across the middle of the Korean Peninsula at the 38th parallel north. In addition, a Civilian Control Line called "Mintongseon" was created bordering the DMZ to restrict access to that area of land. The mountains and valleys in this area were restored to a more pristine state and the area was once again opened to the civilians.
Bordering the Demilitarized Zone in the northeast area of the Republic of Korea, Yanggu County in Gangwon-do gives visitors a chance to experience the reality of the two divided nations on a DMZ tour. Some of the most well-known tourist destinations in Yanggu include the Eulji Observatory overlooking the iconic battle scene of the Punchbowl, the 4th Tunnel, the unspoiled natural environment of Dutayeon Pond, and the Korean Goral Restoration Center and Eco-Botanical Garden where visitors can come face to face with Korean gorals and the rare plants inhabiting the unscathed mountainous areas. Read on for a healing tour amidst the pristine nature of Yanggu!
To visit Eulji Observatory and the 4th Tunnel, visitors are required to apply for admission at the Yanggu Unification Hall. You need to fill out an entry application and submit it with your identification.
We recommend looking around the War Memorial Museum in Yanggu before going to Eulji Observatory and the 4th Tunnel. The war memorial provides detailed information on the fierce battles that took place throughout the Yanggu region during the Korean War. The featured battlefields include Dosolsan Mountain, Daeusan Mountain, Bloody Ridge, the Punchbowl, Gachilbong District Battlefield, and Christmas Hill. The nine pillars standing at the entrance symbolize nine battles, while the slanted exhibition hall represents a collapsing building after being hit by a shell. In the pond filled with yellow irises sits a sobering statue of a soldier reading a letter from home. The exhibition halls feature displays explaining the details of the nine battles and exhibit the weaponry used at that time. The hallway lined with iron helmets hanging from the ceiling and the heaps of empty shells carpeting the ground beneath the tempered glass floor leading out of the exhibition hall are a final reminder of the cost of war.
It is approximately 7 kilometers from Yanggu Unification Hall to Eulji Observatory. Located on the ridge of Gachilbong Peak, the observatory can be reached by climbing up a steeply winding track. Before you get to Eulji Observatory, there is another observatory overlooking the Haean Basin, otherwise known as the Punchbowl. The name Haean, "hae" standing for "pigs" and "an" meaning "comfort", originates from an old story that there were once so many snakes in this region that villagers started raising pigs to ward the snakes off. This basin's other name, the Punchbowl, received its name from UN Forces during the Korean War because of its shape—it is after all encircled by mountains like Gachilbong, Daeusan, Dosolsan, and Daeamsan.
At the Eulji Observatory, visitors can watch a detailed video about the surrounding landscape and get a sense of the situation in North Korea along with details on the terrain on the northern side of the Military Demarcation Line. To the left of the observation platform, the ridge of Gachilbong Peak is visible, as well as Dosolsan and Daeusan mountains, where brutal battles took place during the Korean War. Beyond the glass window, you can even see the nearby mountains in North Korea such as Stalin Hill, Maebong Peak, Unbong Peak, and Ganmubong Peak. In particular, the mountain range faintly visible in between Bakdalbong Peak and Ganmubong Peak is the famous Geumgangsan Mountain in North Korea. It is said that Geumgangsan Mountain can only be seen 80 days of the year, when the weather is the clearest, so try your luck in catching a glimpse of this splendid mountain range.
The 4th Tunnel is an underground passage dug by North Koreans beneath the Demilitarized Zone in preparations for a sneak attack on South Korea. A total of four tunnels have been discovered: the 1st Tunnel in Yeoncheon, Gyeonggi-do, the 2nd Tunnel in Cheorwon, Gangwon-do, the 3rd Tunnel in Paju, Gyeonggi-do, and the 4th Tunnel in Yanggu, Gangwon-do. The 4th Tunnel was unearthed in 1990, just 26 kilometers northeast of the town of Yanggu. The 4th Tunnel measures 1.7 meters in both width and height and is 145 meters below ground. The approximately 2 kilometer-long tunnel is located a mere 1.2 kilometers away from the Military Demarcation Line, and its discovery came as a an unnerving shock to locals.
Before going into the 4th Tunnel, visitors must first drop by the Security Exhibition Hall. The tour begins with a viewing of a security video about the four infiltration tunnels. After the showing, you can look around the security exhibition hall, which displays a range of war relics along with information on the battles that took place in Yanggu during the Korean War and exhibits giving a detailed outline of the 4th Tunnel. On the way to the entrance of the 4th Tunnel, there is a grave and a statue of Second Lieutenant Hunt, a German shepherd dog that passed away after stepping on a landmine while helping with the initial discovery of the tunnel. Visitors are allowed to enter the 4th Tunnel under the guidance of soldiers. Walking about 300 meters down a separate access tunnel leads to the infiltration tunnel's entrance where you can ride the electrically powered carts to the Southern Limit Line (2 kilometers away from the Military Demarcation Line). Inside the tunnel, you can see the dynamite holes used by North Koreans and rails that had been used for carrying the excavated stones. The tour is not available between 12 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Dutayeon Pond was named after a Buddhist temple called Dutasa, which is said to have existed in the area around 1,000 years ago. To visit the pond, visitors need to apply for entrance either at Imokjeong Information Center or Bideuk Information Center. Most people choose to start their tours at Imokjeong Information Center as it is located near from the town of Yanggu. At the information center, you will receive a necklace with a location tracking device upon submitting the entry application along with proper identification. It is about 3.7 kilometers from the Imokjeong Information Center to the Dutayeon Pond parking lot. Visitors can choose to travel by foot, car, or bicycle. Bicycles are available for rent at Imokjeong Information Center for a fee of 4,000 won.
At the Dutayeon Pond parking lot are brochures offering detailed information on Dutayeon Pond and the surrounding area. In addition to these brochures, a tour guide service is available 11 times a day, and brief introductions are also available by the Dutayeon guide map near the entrance to the pond. There are no set courses for exploring the area around the pond, but we suggest, for a short yet culturally fulfilling trek, to begin at the parking lot, pass by the Yanggu Battle Memorial, the Sculpture Park, and then finally cross the stepping-stones and the suspension bridge to get to Dutajeong Pavilion, offering spectacular views of Dutayeon Pond. The estimated trekking time for this nice loop trail is about an hour and a half to two hours.
The Dutayeon Pond Trekking Course offers breathtaking scenery every step of the way. From the stepping stones of Suipcheon Stream past the sculpture park, you can enjoy views of the clear mountain stream and Dutajeong Pavilion in the distance, and a stunning view
of Suipcheon Stream flowing briskly through the imposing mountain terrain can be found as you stand in the middle of the suspension bridge.
There is also a unique experience zone along the trek. After the suspension bridge is a small area dedicated to educating visitors on the dangers and horror of landmines and claymores, as they were both used extensively in the Korea War, and remains of the former can still be found in the area around the DMZ. The site is loaded with a series of simulation anti-personnel and anti-tank mines that recreate the sound made by their explosion if visitors walk in the radius of their blast zone. Visitors can also experience laying or detecting fake mines for themselves.
After the experience zone, you will pass a small pavilion overlooking Dutayeon Falls. At the pavilion is a sculpture of Hallyu actor So Ji-sub's hand reaching out for a handshake with a caption reading, "Walk not with your body, but with your mind." Continue along to reach the most picturesque views in the area at Dutajeong Pavilion, which offers an impressive spectacle of swirling currents falling relentlessly down the cliff into the pond.
If you are a fan of So Ji-sub, don't forget to drop by the So Ji-sub Road 51k Dutayeon Gallery located at the entrance to Dutayeon Pond. The Hallyu celebrity first visited Yanggu for filming and ended up publishing a photo essay book titled "The Road of So Ji-sub" in 2010 covering the DMZ area of Gangwon-do. The 51 kilometer-long So Ji-sub Road extends throughout Yanggu County, and the 8 kilometer-long course leading from the gallery to the Dutayeon Pond is So Ji-sub Road Course 1. The gallery is packed with goods and photos of So Jib-sub, as well as clothing that the actor wore in movies and dramas.
Korean gorals ("sanyang" in Korean) have been designated as Natural Monument No. 217 and are a level-2 endangered wildlife species. Resembling goats in appearance, they reside in rugged mountainous areas like the demilitarized zones in Yanggu, Inje, and Hwacheon in Gangwon-do, and the Civilian Control Line and Woraksan Mountain in Chungcheongbuk-do. The Korean Goral Restoration Center was established to protect and propagate the endangered Korean gorals that were driven to the brink of extinction as a result of poaching and destruction of their ecosystem. The natural rock face area in Pallang-ri where the restoration center is located has been designated as a Korean goral sanctuary and features a variety of facilities including a farm, care center, recovery room for rescued gorals, and more.
As Korean gorals reside in the mountainous areas at altitudes above 600 meters, they are one of the most rarely encountered animals, but at the Korean Goral Restoration Center, visitors can see the gorals up close and personal. The center has over 20 gorals, most of which have been brought to the center either due to injury or donated by individuals or groups protecting this endangered species. There is a trail allowing visitors to take a walk around the grounds and see other animals living at the center.
Yanggu Eco-Botanical Garden is located at the foot of Daeamsan Mountain. It is the northernmost eco-botanical garden in Korea. The garden is divided into three zones. The lower section sits at an elevation of 420 meters and is comprised of different themed gardens like the Story Flower Garden, Root Flower Garden, Indigenous Flower Garden, Succulent Garden, and more. The lower section also has a space science playground, a pond, an open-air theater, and a picnic square that provides a great place to take a stroll. The upper section is at an elevation of about 480 meters and can be reached by crossing the Chorong Bridge. The upper section is a place to learn more about forests with over 90 tree species and 170 flower species featured in a variety of zones like the Secret Forest, Meditation Forest Trail, Marsh Eco Park, the Daeamsan Mountain area, and more. A 7.9 kilometer Eco Trail stretches from Yanggu Eco-Botanical Garden along Daeamsan Mountain climbing up to Solbong Peak and extending to Kwangchi Recreation Forest. You can also take the Eco Trail leading to Yongneup Swamp, which has been designated as a Ramsar wetland and is the highest moor in Korea.
* Yanggu Center Festival
Doton-ri Village in Nam-myeon, Yanggu-gun is considered to be the geographical center of Korea. To promote its geographical significance, Yanggu hosts the Center Festival every year in August. This annual festival has grown into one of the major events of the county.
Siraegi are dried radish greens. Yanggu grows an abundance of siraegi radish in order to make this regional specialty. Once a siraegi radish is ripe, the radish part is thrown away while its leaves and stalks are left to dry for about two months, normally starting in October. The large daily temperature during this time makes the dried radish greens characteristically tender. Siraegi is eaten as a side dish after boiling and seasoning it and is also used in cooking soups or stews. It is widely recognized as a well-being food in Korea as it is rich in vitamins and minerals.
* Yanggu County Tourist Information: http://ygtour.kr (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
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-Intercity bus: Dong Seoul Bus Terminal – Yanggu Intercity Bus Terminal (06:30-19:35, bus runs 22 times daily) -Yanggu Unification Hall: From Yanggu Intercity Bus Terminal, take a bus bound for Haean and get off at the last stop (bus runs 3 times daily) / taxi fare costs around 25,000 own (additional fare required to get to Eulji Observatory and the 4th Tunnel)