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Name: Melissa

About Me

Countries Visited (not including Turnarounds): Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Great Britain, Greece, Iceland, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Libya, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Moldova, Monaco, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, North Korea, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United States, Vatican City

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Latest Updates
Thursday, September 27, 2012
Well as the floods had hit DPRK about 10 days before my trip, there were a few attractions on the itinerary that were affected. So since the original journey to Mt Myohyang was not possible, the road trip to Kaesong was the only real road trip of the tour. I was very much looking forward to the day, especially since I was one of the few in my group who had seen the DMZ from the South Korean side. It was a good 2 1/2 hour drive to the border on really rough roads - I thought that maybe I or someone else from the group would suffer from motion sickness, so I told myself to bear with the roads, full of cracks and uneven bitumen (which was similar to the airport runway) for an hour, and I'd be okay after then. I was craving for a tunnel though - it was nice and smooth under those.

Yes the drive was long, but it was quite nice to see the 'proper' DPRK outside Pyongyang. There was a lot of farming that we could see, mainly corn and rice fields. At one point we passed a village that had a bridge collapse due to the flooding, which must have happened overnight as there were villagers who were trying to clear debris and everyone standing around who looked like they needed to cross the river.

We were also given an informative talk by one of our guides, Mr Lee, who was really new to the whole 'tour guide' business. He was very sweet but needed a few months just to get the information flowing a bit better during the tour. One of the classic Mr Lee quotes was...

"Always ask before taking photos as don't take photos of the militarily or your camera will be constipated."
But he took the long drive to Kaesong as a chance to tell us a bit about DPRK life, such as
  • Sunday is a day off, Saturday isn't spent working, but used as a study day or for any political meetings.
  • The biggest surprise to me was that Army service isn't compulsory but highly encouraged, which is in total contrast to what I've read. He said that their service is generally between 3 to 4 years and many people choose to do military service as they are looked at more favourably for university places. 
So once we arrived at the DMZ we first went into a souvenir shop/lecture room, where the layout of the DMZ area was explained to us. We were told that there would be four military checkpoints to the DMZ area, and of course there was another reminder not to take photos of the military until told.

Propaganda posters at Kaesong

General layout of the DMZ and the buffer zones. 

Kim Il Sung Signature Memorial

Once we were taken to the Joint Security Area of the DMZ we saw the Armistice building where the peace talks are held, and on the right was the location of the DPRK flagpole that I saw 4 to 5 years earlier, however for some reason things appeared different, location wise. We also saw no South Korean soldiers nor tourists, despite being told we were close to the border. The Joint Security Area is apparently the only point in the DMZ where North and South soldiers stand face to face.

Everyone listening to the soldier guide in the Armistice building

This microphone is supposed to represent the divide between North and South

North Korean guard keeping watch. He was on the south side of the microphone at this point. 

 Panmongak Hall

 The blue UN Armistice buildings, aka Conference Row, with the South Korean Home of Freedom in view behind.

 The DPRK soldiers are standing on the gravel, whereas the concrete separator is the border on the 38th parrallel where North and South meet.

Kij┼Ćng-dong with the notorious flagpole in the distance, and believe it or not I could see it more clearly from the South Side.

Obligatory group shot with the DPRK soldier.

 Our military guide giving a speech inside the North Korea Peace Museum

 Of course, there has to be a photo of the Supreme Leader, Kim Il Sung.

 Korean Armistice Agreement, signed by the North; and signed by the United Nations Command

 Old clippings and photos from the agreement era, plus there was a special section for the "Axe Murder Incident" of the 70's.

Map of the Koryo Museum

Koryo Museum

Apparently this was a chart showing how much a person was worth. A woman was worth 120 won, a man 100, elderly and kids worth 60 won, but the Ox was worth a staggering 400 won!

Gorgeous murals and paintings at the Koryo museum.

Replica of the Tomb of King Kongmin

Jorge trying to blend in. 

The actual tomb of King Kongmin

So after a day of coping with reasonably heavy rain, we had one last stop to go - the Arch of Reunification.

Base of the Arch

The two women representing the North and South, holding up a sphere with the unified Korea.