Today was a very remarkable day for every single one of our group. We had the opportunity visited the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). In order to catch our train we had to get up very early. We met at 5:50 a.m. at the hotel lobby. Despite the fact that the breakfast was due to start at 7 a.m. we didn’t have to go out without the most important meal of the day. The organization team arranged a breakfast box for all of us.
After a long journey with metro and train we arrived at 8:50 a.m. and were warmly welcomed by Major Moritz Schönenberger (Swiss Army), Captain Edwin Juleus (U.S. Army) and Lt Matt McQuaid (New Zealand Navy). With our bus we travelled through various military checkpoints to the highly controlled camp Bonifas were we had the pleasure to listen to an interesting presentation about the Korean War the United Nations Command (UNC) and the DMZ by Lt. Matt Mc Quaid.
After that we continued our tour to the Dorasan Station Railroad station which is located on the Gyeongui Line. Major Bo Pedersen (Danish Army) guided through the station and gave us some interesting background information. The aim of this station was to connect South Korea with China, Russia and Europe. This overland connection would cut the travel time from South Korea to Europe roughly by 20 days compared to the sea route. Between 2006 and 2008 there was a train connection between South Korea and North Korea which was only used by tourists and South Koreans. In 2008 North Korea accused South Korea of a confrontational policy. This led to the closure of the train connection. Major Bo Pedersen showed us also the control point to enter the North Korean trading zone Kaeseon industry complex.
The next stop on our tour was the Demilitarized Zone short DMZ. Before we entered the zone we met MP Wilson who was responsible for our security, he was the only one who was armed which can identified by a black armled. We drove 2km inside the DMZ to the Military Demarcation Line (DML) which is a military line and not a political border as many of us might have thought. Standing right at the line to North Korean territory we were not allowed to give any verbal or non-verbal signs to the North Korean guards and the tourists on the North Korean side to avoid missinterpretations as MP Wilson mentioned. While our visit we were under close supervision of the North Korean forces which also took fotos and video recordings of the actions on the enemy’s side.
Later at the Swiss camp MG Urs Gerber gave a concise and interesting introduction into the role of the Swiss Army at the DMZ. A Swiss and Swedish delegation of total 10 officers is responsible to observe and control the activities of the South Korean and United Nations from a neutral point of view without taking sides. A major challenge as the two star general explained. They have to report their observations to the United Nations. After the presentations we enjoyed a very delicious meal hosted by MG Urs Gerber and Admiral Anders Grenstad (Swedish Army).
Our last stage was the Third Tunnel which was one of a few tunnels which the North Koreans built to infiltrate South Korea. This tunnel was discovered in October 1978. Even if the North Koreans refused to take responsibility having digged the tunnel, the location of the drilling holes for placing dynamite proved that the tunnel was built by North Korea. We had the opportunity to enter the tunnel with a cog railroad. Tall members of our students group were not very pleased about the height of the tunnel. However it was a very interesting experience.
Around 4pm we had to say goodbye to our guides and took the train back to Seoul. It was very interesting to see one of the last remains of the Cold War.