"Panmunjom, from the North and South Sides" P'anmunjom-ni by kdoc13

P'anmunjom-ni Travel Guide: 25 reviews and 88 photos

How I got there.

Oddly enough, as an American I was not supposed to be there, on the North side that is. And in most cases, Americans will not be allowed over there at all! If you come from select places in Europe, China, Russia, Cuba, etc. you will be able to get in. They will check your passport, and it is advisable to have it on you at all times, even with the government escort who never leaves your side.

I was allowed to cross over as part of a delegation with the Korean Government negotiating group that I am interning with this summer, otherwise I would not have been allowed. In fact, I was not allowed to take even a camera with me. The photo's which I will post at a future date are all taken from the South Korean side of the MDL in Panmunjom. Plus, my time was limited, I was only allowed to spend 50 minutes in the north, before I was back on a bus heading for the border and a train. There is some debate as to whether or not it was a legal visit. Since it was under official Korean Government papers, I guess I was considered a diplomat. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to do anything there but sightsee for an hour.

If you are in South Korea and wish to visit the truce city, it is a bit easier. I signed up for a tour and was able to show up, with some caveats, but more on those later.

Behind the Iron Imaginary Line.

It is scary to be on the other side. And made all the more scarier by the fact that everywhere we went, faces kept peering at me like they wanted me to die. There is some serious anti-west atidtude there. And the propoganda can be a bit sickening. There is a museum which is pretty much dedicated to the glory of axe-murdering of 2 American GI's, and to the founding of the North by Kim Il Sung and his unborn sperm (At the time) Kim Jong Il.

The South Side.

This is probably the moe firendly side, if there is such a thing. The tours are brief. Approximately 7 minutes in the main meeting room, and 7 minutes to take pictures near Freedom house. Then it is on to a guard post for about 10 minutes, and a bus ride past the bridge of no return and Checkpoint 3.

There are some very tough guys who stand on this border. They look intimidating and are pretty lethal. You will feel very safe. Still, there are rules to be followed while visiting. The first one, dress conservatively. You most likely will not even get into the DMZ on a tour here if you have open toed shoes, jeans and a t-shirt. Shorts and very short skirts are not allowed either. Business casual is the way to go. It may be hot, but you are going to be there less than an hour anyway. Second, don't bring a lot of camera equipment. You can bring your camera, one extra roll of film, and not much else. No camera cases, purses, umbrella's, tripods etc. Third. Do not make gestures at the North side. You are constantly being monitored, and the images of it are used as propoganda, and also because some gestures can be seen as antagonistic and you really don't want to be responsible for a war. Finally, if a guard tells you to do something, you do it, without question. I am anti-war. But I respect our armed forces and support them. Others do not, and it is good to remember that at this place, they can legally put a beating on you for disobeying orders. You even sign off on a contract stating you will agree to a beating and that you will not hold the soldiers responsible.

It never fails, someone will tell a friend, hey get a picture of me over there, and then point. Don't do that. It is a fast way to an international incident.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:You are witness to history, and it puts the freedoms you take for granted into perspective
  • Cons:It is one of the scariest places on earth.
  • In a nutshell:Important to see at least once.
  • Last visit to P'anmunjom-ni: Jul 2004
  • Intro Updated Jul 17, 2004
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Reviews (5)

Comments (3)

  • Jun 18, 2008 at 9:13 AM

    In the tip about the Peace Museum, you probably meant that the south is a pawn of the UN and not the north. Or maybe it was something hidden I missed.

  • firechick's Profile Photo
    Mar 21, 2005 at 6:20 AM

    Wow - what an experience. And I am definitely not putting this on my list of places to go in future - best to live it vicariously through you! Thanks for sharing this.

  • bijo69's Profile Photo
    Nov 6, 2004 at 3:34 PM

    Good description of a place few people go....

kdoc13

“Just because you are American doesn't make you better than the locals”

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