Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Day 3 (part 1) - DMZ

The road to the DMZ is the sterotypical North Korean four-lane highway that you could take a nap on (in fact, though I didn't get any pictures, there were people doing exactly that. Near the side of the road, at least.)

The DMZ itself is probably actually better seen from the South. Besides the closer correspondence between reality and the South's version of it, you can also get a better sense of the politics behind it from the restrictions the South places on visitors. In fact - as long as you can get into North Korea at least - it is much more difficult to get to the line from the South side than the North, because of restrictions including nationality and attire. Anyway, today was a bit dissapointing, because there were no soldiers or tourists present on the other side.

The blue huts are from North Korea, Ms. Jong told us, and the white ones (out of view on either side of these three) were built by the Americans. She also pointed out a couple of American soldiers doing something over off to the side for a second. I noticed during the whole presentation she never once mentioned the South Koreans, only America. (In fact, this giant vaccuum on South Korea would become a larger theme of this whole trip.) This DMZ situation would of course be something she would have seen with her own eyes, so I decided to challenge her on this point. "When you mentioned that on some days there are American soldiers that come to that line, are they only Americans, or are there Koreans there too?" She asked to repeat the question, so I did. Then she mumbled something incomprehensible, before I finally changed the subject again.

After this I didn't feel so bad about the day before. She could have possibly been taught that Korea didn't have any spy ships, or that 10 million of them had fled the South to live overseas (which would be the implication of the incorrect population numbers she gave one of our members who asked about it) - but here she was lying directly to my face, and I think we both knew it. I'm guessing this is a situation that comes up a lot in their daily lives, and not just in their dealings with foreigners...

On the way back - and it took me most of the trip to realize this, inbetween some dozes - the guides were letting us take pictures freely, without even asking. I started looking at the districts(these are not called "villages," our guides say) and one interesting thing I noticed was that even some of the smallest settlements of only a few houses had a memorial to whatever erected in the central part of the 'town.' Unfortunately for the entire trip I was unsuccessful in getting a picture of this. In addition to all the various other camera problems I was having, the roads were generally lined with a couple of layers of very thick trees. I did manage to get one decent pic it looks like - Leonika, I'm counting on you here!..


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