Thursday Doors: Have You Ever Wondered What the DMZ Was Like?

Today I am taking LIBERTY with Norm’s Thursday Doors to show what I thought I would never see. This is a very large door, but it has been closed for a very long time. We are getting a chance to open that door between South Korea and North Korea, which might be one of the greatest ribbon cuttings ever. So what does the DMZ look like? Do people go there or do men just stand along a fence and eyeball one another from afar? This visit was one of the most exciting adventures……and this is what I learned…….

First one has to arrive at the airport in Seoul, South Korea. The featured picture is the greeting you get at the airport. Seoul is a bustling big city, but we are moving on………..

Seoul Area Enroute to DMZ
Seoul Area Enroute to DMZ

There is a strict protocol that must be adhered to for Americans traveling to the DMZ. There is no monkey business here. It is considered entrance into a hostile area and every precaution is taken to avoid the possibility of injury or death as a result of enemy miscommunication. Looking at this map we can see that the redline with the white lines on either side of it, is Demarcation Line Zone. On either side of that are the barbed wire looking signs that show the North Korean Border and the South Korean Border. There are roads and railway lines across the borders, but they are heavily guarded and not used. This really surprised me because I thought all such passages would have been long gone.

Dorasan Train Station: Gyeongui Train Map

Our first stop at the DMZ is the Imjingak Resort Park. Yes, that is the name of it. And it is treated as a National Park with many shrines and monuments, and to my surprise many Korean visitors! Here is the Peace Bell. I hope that bell will soon ring out for good! But first, a map of the Resort Park.

Imjingak: Park Map 

The point that marks the Division of North Korea and the South was marked by a symbol, as a time of reunification and peace for all mankind, on January 20, 2000 to ring in the 20th century. This symbol was a Peace Bell, erected by the 9 million citizens of Kyonggi and their hopes and prayers for peace. Will that bell finally ring?

Imjingak: The Peace Bell
Imjingak: Bell of Peace
Imjingak: The Peace Bell
Imjingak: The Bell of Peace

A sculpture was made from stones collected from battlefields all over the world that have witnessed the suffering and grief of war. The stones were collected from 86 battlefields in 64 different countries. The Korean people hope for the peace and harmony for all mankind.  The Stones of Peace Wall was dedicated on January 1, 2000.

Imjingak: The Stones of Peace Wall
Imjingak: Stone Monuments
Imjingak: Monument

Brave soldiers from 16 countries shed their blood fighting to defend Korea from the North Korean invasion on June 25, 1950. Approximately 1,300 residents of Paju City, as well as the Division Commander of the First Infantry Division, General Paik Sun-Yup risked their lives to protect the Republic of Korea from the invasion. This is the Korean War Veterans Memorial.

Imjingak: Korean War Veterans Memorial

This monument represents the search for Dispersed Families. The song, “30 Years Lost” and a TV show was aired, starting June 30th to November 14th in 1983, for 453 hours and 45 minutes throughout 138 days and made contributions to re-uniting 10,189 dispersed families.

Imjingak: UNESCO Memory of the World Monument

The Mangbaedan Monument represents where refugees built a temporary altar on every Chuseok ( Korean Thanksgiving) to honor their ancestors and parents, who had been left behind in North Korea when Korea was liberated from 36 years of Japanese rule on August 15, 1945. Korea was divided at that time into North and South Korea. The Mangbae Pagoda in the center represents the longing for re-unification of the country and prayers for those in North Korea. The mountains and streams and other areas of the 5 North Korean Provinces were meant to ease the homesickness of the refugees.

Imjingak: Mangbaedan Monument

The Freedom Bridge used to be the only passage connecting the south and north sides of the Imjingang River. Originally there were two railroad bridges on the Gyeongui Line (one for each direction) They were bombed, leaving the piers intact. The railroad bridge was restored on the remaining western piers in order to transport Prisoners of War over the river and at the southern end a temporary bridge was built. In 1953, 12,773 South Korean and UN soldiers crossed that bridge into freedom.

Imjingak: Freedom Bridge

Here you can see the Freedom Bridge intersecting with the restored railroad tracks that are not used. It is manned by guard posts on either side.

Imjingak: Freedom Bridge and Railroad Bridge
Imjingak: Railroad Bridge
Imjingak: Freedom Bridge
Imjingak: Freedom Bridge

This is as far as one can go on the Freedom Bridge today.

Imjingak: Freedom Bridge

This steam locomotive stopped at the Jangdan Station on December 31, 1950. The train was going to Pyongyang with a cargo of military supplies when it was attacked by opposing forces. It bears traces of 1,020 bullet scars and the wheels were bent and broken. The locomotive was recognized as a symbol of the armistice condition of South and North Korea and was left as it was damaged, at the DMZ.

Imjingak: Destroyed Locomotive
Imjingak: Destroyed Locomotive
Imjingak: Destroyed Locomotive
Imjingak: Destroyed Locomotive

On July 5th, 1950, the U.S. sent troops to Korea, becoming the first U.N. forces to enter the Korean War. The United States also sent the largest number of troops of any nation, which contributed to the U.N. forces. 572,000 American soldiers  served in Korea. 33,629 died. 103,284 were wounded and 5178 went missing.

The Korean War Monument to the U.S. Forces was erected on October 3, 1975. The monument is surrounded by four triangles, representing the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. The connection of the four triangles at the top represents unity. The 50 flagpoles represent the 50 U.S. States. It is a desire of the Korean people that the American soldiers who died in battle will rest in peace.

Imjingak: Korean War Memorial Monument to US
Imjingak: Korean War Memorial Monument to U.S.

The Korean War Monument to the Battles along the Imjinggang was erected in memory of the Korean soldiers and U.N. soldiers who fought in repeated advances and retreats along the Imjingang River. It was considered a strategic area and kept the North Koreans from crossing the 38th parallel, causing high casualties among many troops.

Imjingak: Korean War Memorial Monument

And here is Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States, who made the decision to send troops to the Republic of Korea, when they were invaded by communist troops on June 25, 1950.

Imjingak: Korean War Memorial Monument to US

Thank you for indulging me today with my rendition of a possible “OPEN DOOR.” I hope the peace can be made. Time will tell. If you come back tomorrow, we’ll see the Underground Tunnels, the Dora Observation Point, overlooking North Korea,  those famous Blue Buildings that were all over the TV this week when Kim Jong Un made his historic visit to South Korea and oh, yeah, what to eat when you’re here. See you next time!

Imjingak: The Bell of Peace

This is just one of many photos in the Thursday Door Collection featured by Norm2.0!   Won’t you join in or take a peak at all the doors?

4 Comments Add yours

  1. JT Twissel says:

    Fascinating! Thanks for sharing.


  2. Norm 2.0 says:

    That must have been quite a fascinating visit. Thanks for sharing 🙂


  3. I never expected even the hope that this door would open, but then I never thought I’d see the Berlin Wall come down, either, so who knows? Not sure I’d trust Kim, but we’ll see.



  4. Thank you for sharing such beautiful photos and interesting information.


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