Monday, March 29, 2010

Please take your shoes off before dancing on the table.

Okay – I am woefully behind in blog posts. We are back from Korea and China now for about a week and I am going to do my best to get caught up here. I may rely a bit more on pictures than text to try and synch timelines.

Here are a few pics from our visit to the DMZ separating North and South Korea.

dmz01 Here is the opening slide from the orientation groups are given before going on the tour of the Demilitarized Zone. 

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This is an excerpt from the waiver we had to sign before we took our bus ride up to the border. First time I signed off on the chances of a hostile enemy attack.

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Here I am actually standing in North Korea when I took this picture.

dmz02This is a North Korean soldier looking at us through binoculars. Sara wonders if it gets under their skin that South Korea treats the place as a tourist attraction. Of course – South Korean citizens are not permitted on the tour. We were told that the urge to run across the border in order to reunite with long lost family members could be too much for them.

I was surprised by how many of the locals I spoke with looked forward to the day when the two countries would be reunited – as if it were only a matter of time. This is a populace that is familiar with being under the thumb of unfriendly forces and yet retaining their national identity – even in the face of those who specifically and systematically worked to wipe out Korean culture.

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I’ve got to ay though – the tension up on the DMZ was real and while I hope the optimism of the folks hoping for reunification is rewarded –  I wouldn’t be holding my breath. The above picture shows the top of one of the tables in the meeting room we toured which is half in the North and half in the South. We were told that the footprints on the smooth finish are from North Korean soldiers who remove their shoes and stomp on the furniture to show their disrespect when they are alone in the room.

dmz06This is the bridge of no return. It was used for prisoner exchanges at the end of the Korean War in 1953. The name originates from the fact that prisoners were given the choice to remain in the country of their captivity or cross over to the other country. But if they chose to cross the bridge, they would never be allowed to return. 

Usually we would have been allowed to get out of our tour bus and walk up to it but on this day there was a dead dog – just barely visible as a white spot in this pic up where the right railing disappears into the brush – that had been there for a few days so we had to remain in the vehicle for fear of some sort of contamination.

So the dead dog just lies there. A South Korean crossing the bridge to dispose of the carcass could very well be committing an act of war (one of the most famous skirmishes on the DMZ began as a tree trimming) and it doesn’t seem that the North Koreans are in any hurry to clean it up either.

Sort of a stalemate isn’t it?

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