The Korean peninsula is home to a single nation of people with the same language and ethnicity, divided in two. The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is a buffer zone, which was established on July 27, 1953 when the Armistice Agreement was signed during the Korean War. The DMZ vividly captures the scars and wounds of the Korean War as well as the wishes and hopes for the future.
South Korea and North Korea drew a truce line across the Korean Peninsula, from the mouth of the Imjingang River in the west, to the town of Goseong in the east. On either side of the truce line is a 2km-wide stretch of land where military activity is forbidden. The zone has been protected from human disturbance for about four decades and has become a haven for wildlife. The tourist destinations in this ecological area have been renamed as The Peace and Life Zone (PLZ). The following information is to introduce the major attractions in the DMZ and PLZ's package tours.
Civilian access to the DMZ is strictly controlled. Some tourist sites in the area are only available for sightseeing via a DMZ tour package offered by select travel agencies.
All visits to the DMZ requires an ID card, passport, or other type of documentation for identity check purposes. Photos can only be taken where permitted.
Photo: Nuri Peace Park at Imjingak / Third Infiltration Tunnel / Dorasan Station / Panmunjeom (From upper left in order)
Imjingak (Nuri Peace Park)
Established in 1972 immediately after the declaration of the joint South-North armistice, Imjingak exhibits various relics and monuments related to the Korean War and subsequent South-North confrontations. Nuri Peace Park is a large park that can accommodate up to 20,000 tourists at a time. The park has a variety of sculpted artworks and visitors can enjoy performances on the hill.
The 3rd Tunnel
Discovered in 1978, the tunnel was dug by the Northern army to spy on the Republic of Korea. The tunnel is 1.64 kilometers long, 2 meters high and 2 meters wide. It is a prime example of the South-North confrontation.
Dorasan Station is one of the northernmost railway stations on the Gyeongui Line, connecting Seoul to Sinuiju. The station is located in the zone that strictly restricts general civilian access. From the station, visitors can view Dorasan Mountain and the barbed wire fences of the Southern Limit Line.
Panmunjeom was established as the venue for dialogues between South and North Korea in accordance with the armistice agreement signed on July 27, 1953. It is known world-wide as the place where the military armistice conference was held.
Photo: Unification Hill (left) / Yeolsoe Observatory (right)
Unification Hill (Odusan Unification Observatory)
A place for education on security matters, Unification Hill is situated where the Hangang River joins the Imjingang River.
At Yeolsoe Observatory, you can also observe the daily lives of North Koreans.
Yeolsoe Observation Deck
The Yeolsoe Observation Deck is an observatory that offers a birds-eye-view of North Korea. On exhibit are daily household goods and military equipment from North Korea, allowing visitors to get an indirect experience of the North
The Peace and Life Zone (PLZ) includes the DMZ and the areas inside the civilian controlled line. The PLZ has now become a symbol of peace and life, with its unpolluted natural environment and hope for the achievement of a new peaceful era on both sides of the border.
The PLZ covers a total of 7 tour courses including Yeoncheon, Paju, and Gimpo in Gyeonggi-do, Ongjin and Ganghwa in Incheon, Cheorwon, Hwacheon, Yanggu, Inje, and Goseong in Gangwon-do.
Section 1: Goseong to Inje 100km
Photo credit: DMZ Museum
This course stretches from Goseong, a town located on the eastern coast of the Korean peninsula, to Inje, a town in the Seoraksan mountain range. Starting at Goseong Unification Observatory, which is the closest observation point to North Korea, the course offers the best place to start a trip across the PLZ! As the pathway from the observatory to Hwajinpo Lake unfolds, beautiful scenery of the sea and mountains awaits visitors.
Section 2: Yanggu 60km
Photo credit: Eulji Observatory
Nine of the most hard-fought battles during the Korean War took place in Yanggu, and the scars of war still remain here. This section includes two observatories and one tunnel dug by North Korea in an attempt to infiltrate into South Korea.
When taking this 60km-long tour course, you will witness the wonders of life that emerged from the wounds and ashes of Korean War.
Section 3: Hwacheon 90km
Photo credit: Peace Dam
The third course begins from the Peace Dam, which is one of the best locations to appreciate the cleanest and the most pristine nature in Korea. Its crystal-clear mountain streams are home to otters (designated one of Korea's national treasures) and fresh water trout (sancheoneo). Taking the PLZ tour course through pristine Hwacheon will be a special getaway for nature lovers.
Peace Dam → Danggeori Area → Sanyang-ri Village → Chilseong Observatory
Section 4: Cheorwon 80km
Photo credit: Triumph Observatory
This route includes Baekmagoji, one of the most hard-fought battlefields during the Korean War, and the 2nd infiltration tunnel, discovered in 1975. The trail offers meaningful remnants of not only the Korean War, but of history much further back.
Triumph Observatory → Goseokjeong Pavilion → The 2nd Tunnel → Cheorwon Peace Observatory → Woljeong-ri Station → Cheorwon Korean Workers' Party Headquarters → Baengma High Ground Battlefield
Section 5: Yeoncheon 100km
Photo credit: Taepung Observatory
This course brings you closer to North Korea than any of the other courses. The first 15km of the course runs parallel with the barbed wire of the DMZ. Sintan-ri Station, the starting point of the tour, is where both the railway and the road ends, and you cannot go further north, bringing home to visitors the stark reality of this divided nation.
Section 6: Paju 70km
Photo credit: Dora Observatory
The Imjingang River flows along the civilian controlled line, running through a total of seven cities and counties in both Koreas before it merges with the Hangang River and flows into the West Sea. The 6th section of the PLZ (DMZ) course takes visitors on a boat along the Imjingang River. The remnants of old ports and North Korean villages visible over the water create peaceful views.
Section 7: Gimpo to Ganghwa 45km
Photo credit: Ganghwa Peace Observatory
The 7th section of the PLZ course centers on the Hangang River. The Northern Limit Line (NLL) is located right where the Hangang River meets the West Sea. Barbed wire fences were erected to prevent the invasion of North Korean spies, giving out a high military tension in the air. However, the area has a rich natural environment and features sandy beaches, wetlands, and fields of reeds. You can also visit many historical sites, since this section is located near Seoul, also called Hanyang during the Joseon Dynasty.
* This column was last updated in September 2015, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check details from the official websites before visiting.
<Last updated on September 14, 2015>