Monday, December 14, 2009

The Demilitarized Zone.

No really, it's actually quite scary. But I had a lot of fun. But then again I like history.

The Demilitarized Zone located in South Korea is not the only non-combat zone in the world. In fact, it is one of ten currently standing neutral or no-conflict zones. The largest zone is most definitely the one in Antarctica - the entire continent is deemed a no-combat zone by forty-six consenting countries! However, the Korean DMZ is likely the most famous and certainly the most heavily guarded DMZ in the world. Plus it inspires movies like nobody's business.
Cartoon Image that looksl ike something I would do
One might think with an area that is designated a no-combat zone that that it would be fairly safe, right? Actually, here's a list of serious incidents from 1967-2001 that occurred on, around, or due to the DMZ. It's a spicy little area, isn't it? Not bad for a zone in its fifties.

It's also a hugely popular tourist attraction. But when you look at it, it's quite possibly the worst possible choice for a tourist attraction. It's not a building. It's not a historical ruin. It's not a river. No, it's 387.5 square miles of sophisticated military operation and fierce cultural tension.

Perhaps it is the almost taboo nature of it that attracts so many people worldwide? Let alone the zone has provided a backdrop for badboys worldwide to sneak personal snapshots of forbidden things such as hidden tunnels, guard posts, and unnecessarily tall flag poles.

The DMZ is probably among the top four most recognizable facts about Korea in general; standing proudly next to the 1988 Seoul Olympics, 2002 World Cup, and the ridiculously cute 윤은혜.
Yoon Eun Hye
However, the purpose of the zone is clear - don't mess with us and we won't mess with you. I seem to remember having a similar timeout once for fighting with my brother. However, it isn't the purpose of the zone that gives me pause - it's the close vicinity to downtown Seoul that makes me wish I was into Swedish culture instead of Korean.

About thirty miles (48 km) south of the DMZ lies roughly 11 million people. A boatload of people in Seoul are not all the far away from the most heavily guarded place in Asia. Kind of scary, right? Maybe that's why Korea has appeal - danger appeal - like enough appeal to want to date him, but not take him home to mom - unless you just want to make your mom mad. Yeah, that's my Korea.

So in conclusion, I'm terrified of the DMZ. I treat it with respect. I know that South Korea's military is not one to mess with, so I'm not worried for anyone's safety, per se, but I am a little worried at the fact that something like the DMZ even exists in the first place. Perhaps one day it will be torn down. I wonder then what will Korea do with itself if not always looking over its shoulder?

For a more candid, distinctly American viewpoint on the DMZ, I recommend checking out this nicely written first-hand experience. What are your tourist experiences?