DMZ Tour

It is a little odd that we find conflict appealing. Author Stephen Donaldson wrote his first book about a world in conflict that paralleled the conflict of the leprous protagonist. The protagonist is fascinated by this world as he identifies with it; the reader may be fascinated by the fictional world for the same reason, even as they are not quite aware of it.

The Demilitarized Zone (the DMZ) between North and South Korea is a little surreal. The 4km wide and 240km long barrier is lined on both sides by tank traps, landmines and military personal ready for armed conflict; it is also a major tourist attraction. Several observatories allow a glimpse of North Korea, a seemingly barren land that holds historical interest, but seemingly little else. What is the attraction?

Yet the tourists keep coming, and the fascination continues even after they have left. I suppose the appeal is a glimpse into something behind the civilized world we live in. There is a similar appeal in primitive (non-technological) civilizations. Our society is something we artificially built; earlier civilizations are closer to what we would be without our own society. Areas like the DMZ remind us that civilization was bought with much conflict, and that individuals all have a little of that conflict within us. Perhaps this is the human condition.

We might think that a glimpse of the other sides civilization is some glimpse into ourselves, though I think this is misleading. The other side is an alternative society, something else we could have become were we born in a different land. This is foreign to us, but not impossible for us to have become. Imagine what life would be like had we been born over there!

Persons on the DMZ tour, especially in the JSA (Joint security area) must be well dressed with no ripped or revealing clothing. Apparently the North Koreans claims any ‘imperfections in western dress are a sign of an inferior culture, having used images of this for propaganda purposes. There is perhaps no insight here into us, but into a foreign mindset.

Tourists for the DMZ Tour are expected to have passports at all times, and South Koreans must have a background check before the visit. Unfortunately some nationalities are not allowed on the tour.