What Does DMZ Even Stand For Anyway?

“We will go soon into tunner,” she said. “When you go to inside tunner, make sure to listen instructions carefully, other you will have problem. You wear heavy hat for banging. You have to be safety in the tunner or bad thing happen at you. And I do not want to have problem, okkkay?? I wish to take my customers home in safety for big tip!!”

We looked at each other blankly for a moment. What was a “tunner”? And what “banging” was going to happen while we were inside it? Then we realized. She was saying “tunnel”. We were going into a tunnel, specifically a tunnel that North Korea allegedly made into South Korea with the intention of launching an invasion. And the banging was going to be caused by our heads banging against the low ceilings, because of which we were going to have to wear hard hats. Explanation explained.

We were on a tour of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) between North Korea and South Korea, which is a stretch of land 160 miles long and 2.5 miles wide between the two Koreas. The DMZ was formed after the Armistice Agreement of July 27, 1953, one outcome of the Korean War. I’m not sure if anyone understood what “de-militarized” meant though, because the border between North and South Korea is now one of the most heavily militarized in the world. It’s like if your uncle showed up at Christmas in a sports car but claimed he definitely wasn’t having a mid-life crisis.

The DMZ tour consisted of three stops.

Firstly, the tunner. Sorry, tunnel. The tunnel we visited is the 3rd tunnel the South Koreans have found that North Korea have dug as invasion routes into South Korea (since the Armistice Agreement; bad North Korea, bad!). There are currently four known tunnels and you can visit three of them. The one we went to was nothing special. You get a hard hat at the entrance, along with all the other bus loads of tourists, then you file one by one down the tunnel. At first it’s wide and high-ceilinged, but it swiftly becomes narrow, room enough for the people going down to let people coming back up past by them, but it’s very small. You have to stoop almost all the way and every time you want to relax and un-stoop you thwack your head against a wooden beam.

The second stop was a lookout point next to a car park. Doesn’t sound glamorous, and it wasn’t, but from here you can see North Korea.

Yep, that there is a North Korean flag.

Finally, the tour took us to a train station. There’s a train route between South Korea to Pyongyang, North Korea’s infamous capital. As you might expect, it’s not used, but the station is well-maintained and looks like its staff are just on a temporary vacation and could come back any day and resume operations. I don’t profess to know much about the politics and tensions between the two Koreas, but if/when it’s resolved indefinitely, there does at least appear to be some semblance of infrastructure to connect the two nations, and for family members torn apart by war to see each other again.

That was the end of the tour. We went back to the city. “I hope every gentle-man and lady enjoy tour. Everyone is home in safety. Tell your friends and tell to come to our tour of the DMZ and tunner!”

We left a generous tip.

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