In an earlier blog, I mentioned the DMZ, a zone established in 1953, 545km long, which cuts the Korean Peninsula in half, with a “truce” line positioned halfway between the 4km-wide zone. It is in this zone where military activity is not permitted, and is very dangerous as many landmines from the Korean War remain embedded.
Situated at the foot of Baekamsam mountain, and only 1.5km away from North Korea, we were able to visit the Chilseong Observatory. You can only enter this observatory with a military permit, and can view the military facilities of North Korea.
Each of us was paired with a soldier that spoke our language, and we were educated on the history of the war and their own personal experiences being part of the military. From the observatory, I saw the barbed-wire fences lining the DMZ, and the vast land in between; quiet, yet always being watched by both the North and South.
I felt transported through time, staring into the preserved land, and a little bit of nervousness, knowing I was at the closest point to the border, and was likely being watched through the glass from watchers on the other side. There is a feeling of gratitude for the security of your home when given the contrast of ongoing tension and fear of possible war outbreak. I am grateful for this experience and for my military partner for the day, for taking the time to answer all my questions, walking me through the Military Base entitled “Seven Star”, and for opening himself up about his own experiences.
Upon leaving the military base that day, a phrase resonated with me, as it was re-iterated many times by the soldiers: “Please go home to your countries and speak of the importance of peace. That is what we wish for more than anything here. Please promote and spread the message for peace.”