JSA & DMZ, North Korea + Seoul, South Korea

After WWII, Korea was divided in two: the Russian occupied North Korea created a communist government, and the USA-occupied South Korea moved to a new democratic government. As the country started to develop, tensions began to rise and the Korean war began that further separated this single country into two very different and opposing sides.

Years later, with the help of the United Nations Command, Korea tried to unite the two governments and bring peace. This started with making the DMZ (a demilitarized zone) and the JSA (a joint security area) that allowed leaders on both sides to meet on a neutral ground to negotiate.

We had the privilege of visiting the JSA under the UN Command and it was an eye opening experience!

Here are some pictures of our short visit to North Korea (we got to step across the boarder line to North Korean territory) and some final pictures of our time in Seoul before heading to our final destination.

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As you get closer to the DMZ, you can see North Korea across the river and the fences and posts along the road to prevent entry to the south.

Our first stop on the tour was at one of the tunnels built by North Koreans. It is 75 meters deep under ground and crosses the border from North to South. When South Korea found it — they asked the North what was going on, giving them the benefit of the doubt. North Korea responded that it was used to mine coal. And the next time the South Koreans went to investigate — black paint had been spread on the walls of the marble tunnel… as a coverup for the story. There is absolutely no coal anywhere near this area, so we’ll call that a lie.

There are dynamite holes in the walls and you walk down there in a single file line. It gets pretty claustrophobic at some point. There are 4 tunnels that have been found, but it is believed that there are about 10 total. North Korea was expected to be using the tunnels to smuggle spies across the border.

No pictures are allowed to be taken inside, but they have a TON of photo ops once you get out.

This man walked into Maeghan’s picture and she was ok with it… he had puppies wearing fun hats with fireworks on his pants.

Our second stop on the tour was to an observatory where you can see the border between the two countries, the JSA, the Kaesong Industrial Complex, and two tiny towns that are built within in buffer zone itself. These two towns were built (one on the North Korean side and one on the south) for the same reason.

The towns are built for propaganda purposes — to showcase how good life is on their side, and encourage people to defect to their side. The town on the North is completely fake — nobody lives there, and the houses are empty.

The observatory had free binoculars for us to use and look at the cities in the North. It was quite eerie to look at the gigantic North Korean flag floating over the town.

It’s pretty surreal to see two flags opposite to each other that represent such different things.
Our first glimpse into North Korea.
You can see the fake town in North Korea below the flag.
If you look on the far left, you will see the North Korean flag and on the right is the South Korean flag.

After that, we headed to an abandoned (but brand new!) train station. In Korea, every thing is made in Korea. No joke, things you would typically see tags that read “made in China, Bangladesh, Thailand” etc.. it’s all made locally in Korea. For a while, South Korea wanted to take advantage of the cheaper labour across the border and built a train line for workers and authorized people to travel, to a place right across the border called the Kaesong Industrial Complex. The train station was anticipated to connect South Korea to a train lain that connects to the Trans-Siberian railway that crosses Russia, and to railroads that cross China, giving both Koreas massive growth opportunities. However, shortly after the train station was built, North Korea started testing its nuclear missiles and South Korea decided to pull the plug and stop the train from operating. The Industrial Complex is currently abandoned, waiting for tensions to die down. Today, the train station it is a bit of an art gallery, hosting pictures of the historic meeting between the North and the South government last year to show a sign of hope for peace.

Then our last stop of the day brought us right to the South Korean border, we were now entering the JSA and North Korean zone.

We did have a laugh, there was no lineup at the border which is something we’ve never seen!

As you enter the JSA, there is an untouched/protected area that many animals that were either thought to be extinct can only be found in this area — untouched by humans.
These are bomb blockades — if for any reason a tank was coming through, the concrete blocks are filled with C4 explosives that will go off and create a barrier the vehicles couldn’t go through.
When we arrived to the JSA, we had to sign an agreement. This is technically not a safe zone and what you do there could be critical to the efforts of peace, news that is shared or even your life. For example: You are not allowed to wear graphic clothing or jeans that are ripped or with holes. This could be used as propaganda by the North to show their citizens that Westerners are poor — look at their ripped jeans!
The military lined up and stationed themselves outside for our visit.
These buildings are used for negotiations between the two governments.
There is North Korea’s building behind the border line. It is used for families that were separated after the Korean war, to be reunited if only for a few hours.
The border between north and south is separated by this step.
Standing in the North.
Last year when Kim Jong Un & Moon Jae-in met, they planted a tree to show a new wave of peace. It has soil from both the North and South.
Our guide told us Terry Cruz was doing a tour today as well. His ride was a bit cooler than ours though.

After a crazy special day, we headed back to Seoul. Here are our final pictures from our time in South Korea.


We visited the Korean War Memorial. It is HUGE and houses a ton of military tanks, airplanes and ships.

We stopped by the Samsung downtown office and their D’light tour of technology they have built which was super fun. They even had our pictures up as a welcome!
Some school kids came to check out the VR experience — it was fun to watch them ride the rollercoaster in 4D
You then could walk through Samsung’s vision for the house home of the future — and use tablets to scan the room and see how people use the futuristic tech tools.
Maeghan was here and left her mark on the smart fridge.
These massage chairs are quite the experience. Oli really loved it.
Beauty products and services are very popular in Korea. Maeghan decided to get a hair treatment and cut — it was quite the experience.
Gangnam style — the most streamed video on Youtube (as of 2018) has a statue in the neighbourhood it is referencing!
Oli really wanted to check out an eSports game, so we got tickets to see the semi-final StarCraft games! Live streamed on TV and Twitch!
When you walk in, you get to make a sign that they show on TV as part of a segment where the commentators talk about it.
Oli was given a free fancy gaming mouse!
Maeghan didn’t expect to be live on Korean TV or Twitch..
Last dinner
Well, it’s nearing the end of our trip and we’ve officially decided to take carts instead of carrying our backpacks.
See more on our website www.alittledetour.ca🌏✈️👫