The week started out with work as usual. On Wednesday night I searched the forests for more frogs. We found a few this week, but all were females. Our goal was to catch male frogs in order to bring them back to the lab for closer analysis of the frogs' singing behavior. However, we were unable to do this because of the lack of males in the forest at this time of the year. Throughout the rest of the week, I listened to the frog recordings of June/July using the Cooledit software program. There are still many more hours to be be completed, so my schedule is looking very busy for my last weeks here. Even after I finish all of the recordings from the summer (this also includes April and May from before my arrival) I will still need to analyze the data to be able to present this information to Dr. Jang (leading professor) before my departure here, so I have my work cut out for me. Anyways, I was able to get free for the weekend and travel over to the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) of Korea.
Before coming to Korea I knew that one of the things that I would have to see is the DMZ. This is because it is full of so much history and concerns my interest because I believe that the two Koreas (North and South) should be united as one country, but the fact that they aren't means that there are a lot of issues (which I don't understand) that need to be resolved. Before I blog about my experience from the tour I will now add some information about the DMZ as part of my culture post. The line separating North and South Korea is marked by posts that are spread about 200 meters apart along the entire border. The DMZ is covered by farms, wilderness, surveillance cameras, and land mines. Borders of each country contain barbwire barricades. An interesting note is that the North Koreans put a flag up on their side, and in response the South Koreans built a taller flag (100 meters)... However, the North Koreans then extended their flags' height to 160 meters. These flags are really tall (I have a picture of the flags in my slideshow below, but they may be difficult to see because I used my iPhone to capture the image). The South Korean soldiers guarding the border are technically not South Korean soldiers...they're actually UN soldiers from the South's military because the UN controls the DMZ on the south side. On the North Korean side of the border town, Panmunjom, a soldier stands guard outside the building constantly watching the south (there are probably more behind him, but they are hidden). I did not witness this on my tour, but instead learned it from reading about it online. Another fact that I found particularly interesting is that there is regulation saying that tourists can't wear jeans that have holes in them because North Koreans might take pictures of these people and use them as propaganda to say the people from democratic societies are poor and can't afford proper clothing (crazy...right?!). Enough of the facts, time to talk about my experience there.
Upon arrival at Imjingak, we were immediately greeted with some military tanks and planes. It was cool to see the older machines that were used during the war times. Next to these tanks and planes was a small theme park. I was not expecting the DMZ to have music blasting and rides running, but I think that it was for the younger kids to play around. Next, we made our way to the top of this building (idk the name) where we could pay 500 won (50 cents) to use some binoculars and look at North Korea. We also did this later on our tour at the Dora observatory, which was the most northern point where we could see North Korea clearly, along with the flags that I mentioned earlier. This view was better than our first; however, the first binoculars we used allowed us to see the bridge of freedom very clearly. (Back to the time when we were using the binoculars for the first time, in Imjingak)... we made our way to the ticket office in the parking lot to purchase a bus ticket for the tour. Because of the amount of people, we had about 1.5 hours to spare before our bus left for the tour. During this time we walked around and saw some other monuments around Imjingak (pictures are in the slideshow). When the time came, we got onto the bus and found out that our guide only spoke Korean. This made it difficult for us to understand anything...including the times that we needed to get back to the bus after we arrived at each destination. This problem was solved though by a nice Korean family that could translate the time for us. Without them we may have been left and stranded somewhere along the border. Our first stop was Dorasan Station. Following the North-South Joint Declaration on June 15, 2000, both countries agreed to connect the Gyeongui Railroad Line broken during the war (Dorasan is on this line). The North and South connected this line on June 14, 2003 at the Military Demarcation Line in the DMZ. In the station were pictures from the war time and a souvenir shop (these shops were everywhere we went). At our next stop we got to see the 3rd infiltration tunnel, which was dug by the North Koreans as an attempt to invade South Korea. There are 4 infiltration tunnels known to this day that go into South Korea's land, and it is assumed that there are others that haven't been discovered. Before entering the tunnel we watched a video on the history of these tunnels (we were lucky to have some tape recorders that translated the video into english). After, we put on our yellow construction helmets and descended into the tunnel. The tunnel was very small...you could probably fit 3 soldiers side by side, but the height was about 5 feet so we had to crouch the whole way through. It was very cool to actually be inside the tunnel that the North Koreans had dug in intension to invade the south (it was my favorite part of the experience). Also, I think that it's kind of scary knowing that there are probably other tunnels that go into South Korea that haven't been found...and maybe they are digging more. The third stop was the Dora Observatory, which I mentioned earlier (we got to use binoculars to see into North Korea). The fourth stop was a small museum showing the village life of Tongilchon. The village is restricted to civilians and is still impacted by the painful history of the Korean War. This was the last stop on our tour, and also concluded my fun for the week!