DMZ, reminder of war, a valuable tourism resource

  • Published : Apr 6, 2010 - 02:16
  • Updated : Apr 6, 2010 - 02:16

The Demilitarized Zone will become a center of attention in July with the celebration of the 60th anniversary of national liberation.

The 60th anniversary of independence from Japanese colonial rule, however, also coincides with the 60th anniversary of national division.

The DMZ, a 4km-wide buffer zone, was created along the armistice line on July 27, 1953 with the signing of the Armistice Agreement which brought truce to the Korean War that broke out on June 25, 1950.

Today, the DMZ has become a viable tourism resource. It is an eco-tourism spot created by the bio-diversity of the perfectly conserved ecosystem. Many security and education tours also take place at the DMZ, a witness to the painful history of the divided country. It is also hoped that in the not too distant future, the area will serve to break the ice between the South and the North when the peninsula is unified.

There are several security tour courses along the armistice line of the Iron Triangle, the Dam of Peace, the Punch Bowl, and the Unification Observatory. A tour to this area also includes some of Gangwon Province’s most popular tourist destinations such as Mt. Seorak National Park and Naksan National Park.

Chorwon County, located in the northwest corner of Gangwon Province along the armistice line, is a setting for a security tour course. Including the Wall Record Hall, the Second Infiltration Tunnel, and North Korean Labor Party Headquarters, this course offers an opportunity to appreciate the painful history of the country and its hopes for reunification.

This tour course also includes a variety of historic and scenic points of interest, such as Kosokjong War Memorial Hall, Shambuyon Waterfall, and the remains of King Kungye’s fortress along the Hantan River.

The Seasonal Bird Arrival Point at Saemtong sees about 30 species of rare migratory birds such as cranes, wild geese, wild ducks and eagles migrate to this site near the natural spring which does not freeze in the winter.

The Second Infiltration Tunnel, discovered March 17, 1975, was built to transport as many as 30,000 heavily armed North Korean troops to the South.

Within sight of Kim Il-sung Ridge and Bloody Ridge, the Iron Triangle Observatory is a major security tour site located near Woljong Station, the last stop on the Gyeongwon Line which approaches the DMZ’s barbed wire fences.

The Iron Triangle area was a very important strategic point and saw one of the most intense battlefields along the frontlines of the Korea War.

Numerous war records and related materials are on display at the War Record Hall.

Another security tourism spot is the city of Chuncheon and Hwacheon County. The many man-made lakes created by the Soyang, Chuncheon and Uiam dams have made Chuncheon also known as the “Lake City” or “Venice of Korea.” With some of the hardest fought battlefields of the Korean War, including Lake Paro and Hwacheon Dam, many war monuments are scattered throughout Hwacheon County, an important stop on the security tour.

A major tourist attraction in this course is the Dam of Peace, constructed using funds donated by South Koreans in response to the threat of a North Korean attack using the water from Geumgangsan Dam.

Soyang Dam, with 2.9 billion tons of water in storage, was completed 1973. The construction of the 123m-high and 530m-long dam also created Soyang Lake, often called an inland ocean.

With the Fourth North Korean Infiltration Tunnel and Ulji Observatory, Yanggu County attracts many visitors.

As part of the famous Mt. Seorak National Park is located in Inje County, this area has two of the most beautiful spots in the province-Twelve Fairies Ponds and Baekdam Valley.

The Yanggu and Inje course includes the Punchbowl Basin, surrounded by mountains on average over 1,000 meters above sea level, where fierece battles were fought during the Korean War.

Goseong County, in the northernmost part of South Korea, and the city of Sokcho is another security tour course that combines reminders of the Korean War and the natural beauty of Gangwon Province.

On a clear day, the Unification Observatory in the northernmost part of South Korea offers visitors a clear view of Mt. Geumgang and Haegeumgang to the north of the border.

Mt. Seorak, regarded as one of the most beautiful mountains in Korea, is a perfect place to enjoy nature at its best through all the seasons. Statue of Gwaneum, 14 meters tall, standing in Naksan, overlooking the East Sea, is another popular tourist attraction.

By Kim Hoo-ran