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Panmunjeom

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Panmunjeom (???), also P'anmunj?m, is on the demarcation line between North and South Korea.

The village of Kijong-dong, on the North Korean side of the DMZThe village of Kijong-dong, on the North Korean side of the DMZ
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The village of Kijong-dong, on the North Korean side of the DMZ

dmz Travel Guide :

Panmunjeom

Understand

The joint security area seen from the north sideThe joint security area seen from the north side
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The joint security area seen from the north side

A unique living relic of the Cold War era, Panmunjeom is a small village that happened to lie at the final battle front of the Korean War. The truce that ended hostilities was signed here in 1953, but as peace was never agreed to, the two sides are still officially at war over fifty years later and a million men stand guard in the singularly inappropriately named Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). While there are no troops in the zone itself, both sides of the 4-kilometer strip of land separating the Koreas are the most heavily armed in the world: Pillboxes, barbed wire and tank stoppers line the entire border and stretch back halfway to Seoul in the South and Pyongyang in the North.

At the center of Panmunjeom is the Joint Security Area (JSA), an 800 sq.m. patch of land jointly policed by the South and North, where soldiers glare at each other across the border and the two sides occasionally meet for discussions (or gunshots).

Panmunjeom

Get in

Panmunjeom

From the South

Visits to Panmunjeom from the South Korean side must be arranged in advance as part of an organized tour, although for foreigners three days notice usually suffices. Citizens of China and South Korea will need to make arrangements well in advance (at least two months), while citizens of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Cuba, Iraq, Iran, DPRK, Sudan, Syria, Libya cannot participate.

  • Panmunjom Tour, tel. +82-2-7715593, 1 (http://www.panmunjomtour.com). A specialist company offering various tours of the JSA and the DMZ, from 50,000W and up for a half-day visit from Seoul, including lunch. They can also arrange tours by a defector from the DPRK accompanied by an interpreter.
  • USO, tel. +82-2-795-3028, 2 (http://www.uso.org/korea/). The US military servicemen's organization offers highly regarded tours that cover both the JSA and the Third Tunnel. Twice a week, but payment must be made no less than four days in advance and places fill up fast. US$40 for civilians, lunch not included (bring your own or W10,000 for chow at the canteen).
Panmunjeom

From the North

To visit from the DPRK side is relatively straightforward if it is previously specified as part of your tour (and you've managed to get into the country in the first place).

  • Korean International Travel Company, tel. 850-2-18111 (ext) 381-8901, 3 (http://www.kcckp.net/en/tourism/institution.php?4#bureau). The state travel company of the DPRK.
Panmunjeom

Get around

From the South, travel within the DMZ is possible only in UN vehicles, and you'll be transferred to a UN bus at Camp Bonifas.

From the North, you will reboard your tour bus at the entrance to the DMZ, accompanied by a member of the Korean People's Army (KPA).

Panmunjeom

See

When booking your tour, be sure to clarify what exactly will be offered. The primary points of interest for most visitors from the south are the Joint Security Area and the Third Tunnel, but not all tour companies have clearance to visit these and you'll have to pay a small premium for those that do.

From the North you will be able to visit the original site of the Panmunjeom village and the Peace Museum that was originally built for and houses original copies of the 1953 armistice. From there it is a short drive to the JSA.

Panmunjeom

DMZ and JSA

Conference rooms straddling the demarcation lineConference rooms straddling the demarcation line
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Conference rooms straddling the demarcation line
A South Korean military base on the south side of the demilitarized zone, as seen from a North Korean bunkerA South Korean military base on the south side of the demilitarized zone, as seen from a North Korean bunker
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A South Korean military base on the south side of the demilitarized zone, as seen from a North Korean bunker
  • Camp Bonifas, at the southern entrance to DMZ. This is the US/South Korean military base standing "In Front of Them All" should an attack come. Visitors to Panmunjeom will change buses and get briefed here before entering the DMZ.
  • Freedom House, JSA. South Korea's pompous propaganda palace facing the demarcation line. Visitors are usually taken to the Peace Pagoda next to it, which provides good views of the JSA and surrounding countryside. Accessible only from the Southern side.
  • Panmun-guk, JSA. North Korea's pompous propaganda palace facing the demarcation line. Accessible only from the Northern side.
  • T1 through T3, JSA. These are the conference rooms straddling the border: the neat lines of microphones and, outside, the low concrete bar mark the exact position of the line of demarcation. Both South and North Korean soldiers in intentionally intimidating poses stand guard in and around the rooms. You're free to walk around the conference room and can hop from South to North if you wish. Just don't try to leave by the other exit!
  • Bridge of No Return, JSA. After the Korean war, some prisoners of war were given the choice to cross over the bridge or to stay on the side of their captors, hence the name. On August 18, 1976, a US attempt to cut down a poplar tree obstructing visibility of the bridge led to a battle with North Korean forces that left Capt. Arthur Bonifas and Lt. Mark Barrett dead in what was later known as the Axe Murder Incident. The bridge is now closed and a new bridge to the north is used instead.
  • Taesong-dong, DMZ. South Korea's showpiece "Freedom Village" in the DMZ, containing a little over 200 farmers working under 24-hour military guard and a 100-meter flagpole. Entry into the village is not permitted, but you will pass by on your way to the JSA from the South side.
  • Kijong-dong, DMZ. On the North Korean side, this is a former village built up with fancy apartment blocks and a 160-meter flagpole entered in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's tallest — but nobody lives there, hence its common name "Propaganda Village". Entry into the village is not permitted, but it is clearly visible from the JSA (although binoculars will come in handy).
Panmunjeom

Outside the DMZ

On the South Korean side, sites outside the DMZ can be visited more cheaply and with less hassle.

  • Imjingak, Paju. A four-story museum and observatory 7 km south of the DMZ, with views across the Kaesong River towards the DMZ and North Korea. The train line to Pyongyang passes nearby. This is the closest you can get to the DMZ without security clearance. The museum is open 9 AM to 6 PM daily.
  • Third Tunnel. One of four tunnels from the North to the South discovered so far.
Panmunjeom

Buy

Panmunjeom

North

All tourist facilities for foreigners in the DPRK include a gift shop, and the gateway to the DMZ is no exception. Just inside the concrete wall you can purchase Korean art and amongst other things, of course, endless amounts of literature on the Great Leader Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il.

Panmunjeom

South

Somewhat incongruously, in South Korea Camp Bonifas's former monastery building has been turned into a gift shop retailing DMZ-related paraphernalia, including chunks of rusty barbed wire from the original demarcation line (W25,000).

Panmunjeom

Eat

The canteen in Camp Bonifas is no longer open to the civilian visitors, so most tours now head to eat elsewhere. There is no food available for purchase on the Northern side and the closest available facilities are in Kaesong.

Panmunjeom

Drink

Consumption of alcohol in the DMZ is prohibited.

Panmunjeom

Sleep

Room and board at Camp Bonifas is restricted to active duty soldiers in the United States Armed Forces. However, retired servicemen who have received the Medal Of Honor might be able to stay on a "space available" basis.

Panmunjeom

Respect

From the South, a strict dress code applies for all visitors, particularly in the JSA: for men, collared shirts and long trousers are mandatory, while T-shirts, sleeveless shirts, short skirts and such are out. The purpose is twofold: one to make sure you don't end up on a North Korean propaganda poster, and the other to to make sure you can run if somebody starts shooting.

Within the DMZ, photography outside designated points is not permitted. Long lenses are allowed, but tripods are not. You must stay together with the group and follow the tour leader's instructions at all times.

From the North, photography is permitted unrestricted at the JSA and the Peace Museum. Elswhere you will have to ask permission.

Panmunjeom

Stay safe

From the South, entry into the JSA/DMZ requires signing a voucher where you agree to accept responsibility for "injury or death as a direct result of enemy action". Remember: it may be in a state of suspended animation, but both sides have itchy trigger fingers and it's still a war zone.

Panmunjeom

Get out

Unless you're planning to risk your life in an attempt to defect, this is not a good place to attempt to cross the border.



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