Seoul (South Korea) – 28 km (bike is still swimming)
04 May 2016
A day-trip to one of the world’s trouble zones ….
Well, all-in-all it felt like past impressions I carry from the ‘Zonengrenze’. For my non-German readers, that was the border which run from north to south dividing the West from the East, hence split Germany into two halves with West-Berlin practically an island surrounded by east Germany, all prior to 1989. Most would say that this border kept the Ozzies (not the Aussies) in their east part of the nation, cementing the division since the end of WW2.
The DMZ – De-Militarised Zone – keeps the bad, fat guy in the north and his semi-starving population from the super-prosperous south. North Korea has about the population as Australia has ~ 24 Mill, but 50 Mill live in the geographically smaller South Korea.
All I know about the north is from western media and after yet-another recent Channel 9 super fuck-up, I take our media even with a greater grain of salt. Though it cannot be disputed that the North is a proper regime, its small group of leaders snouts in trough – hence are rather fat whilst the rest of the North Koreans are a size 8. Both need China’s support to avoid wasting away further/feeding themselves ever more.
After a recent incident with a land mine, one young soldier lost both legs, the South claims infiltration and land mine laying by the North, and – as expected – the North says “It wasn’t us”.
So this border is somewhat dicey, more than the Zonengrenze ever was. Seems to me that Scharmuetzel are a quarterly occurrence. The tension, at the southern side is palpable.
Equally palpable is the business generated from it all. A prosperous Nation such as South Korea doesn’t miss a beat. They have built a great tourist attraction from this. Daily bus tours ship hordes of tourists to this place, approx. 50 km north of Seoul. I was one of them on this day. Together with another 31 on the tour, young and old, fellow Aussies, Japanese, Singaporeans, Chinese, Canadians, Americans, Portuguese, Germans – the world was represented. Our guide, ‘Sunny’ was a happy should, but sounded just a little like a propagandist from the South. Can’t be bothered to dispute, challenge or query anything. It is her world and there was still a language barrier. My Korean is awful!
On the way we stopped several times, but the highlight was a visit to the 3rd infiltration tunnel! Here, it is claimed that the North for the 3rd time dug an underground tunnel It went about 70mtrs deep under the DMZ into South Korean territory. The South only found it on the account of a defector. Then the flooded it and called the WorldPress. The North is said to have responded that they “kno nozzing” and that tunnel must have been an old coal mine. Walking into the tunnel, for me in hunchback-of=Notre-Dame position, I can see it is sheer granite, rock-hard on the double! Besides no coal is found in this area. Well, being the ‘third’ there of course was a 1st and a 2nd tunnel before, all found. The last one – the fourth – was found less than 20 years ago. ‘Tenacity’ is all I can say.
One wonders how many other – not yet detected – might be there.
On reflection the argument of invasion appears a little feeble. The South claims that 3000 armed men can get through this tunnel in one hour … I must wonder and even doubt the practical application of such a task.
Firstly, all Northern soldier must me midgets! The tunnel is o average about 160mtrs high, at some spot less – others more. Most Northerners ARE smaller than the Southerners probably caused by decades of poor nutrition.. To me almost all are ‘less tall’ and only the Dwarf Division of a Western Army could charge through this tunnel.
Thinking a bit more I know from experience that carrying a machine gun through such a tunnel, im Laufschritt! Marsch-Marsch!! )“on the double” I believe is the Aussie military version) is hard yakka. So what if one of the 3000 stumbles, even fell. My memory tells me that a MG is fast carried by two and perhaps a third soldier running behind with the ammo.
Or what about amassing an army of men at the entrance without being noticed by the surveillance of the other side?
So – seriously – an invasion through a single tunnel?? I left unsure.
The other interesting thought is about potential reunification.
A rather befitting sculpture marks the spot of the 3rd tunnel
However the divide is 70+ years old. Most people who experienced the division first hand are dead. The new generation never knew it any different, for them it is two countries who happen to share a language (and even that starts to slightly change) and they see no real benefit in the reunification.
On the other hand Army service is compulsory for young men in South Korea, and so is a visit or three to this site (and others) to keep up the image of who IS the ENEMY.
One shall see, I never ever thought I would see a reunification of the both Germany’s in my lifetime. Whoops! – I was wrong! … but seriously that was the one-and-only-time …
My evening was a most pleasant one. My shipping agent in SK Wendy Choi – and what a marvellous operator you are Wendy!! – and I met and walked for dinner. A dinky-dei Korean BBQ was on the menu. I reckon the set-up of this restaurant, red-hot coals in the middle of each table covered by a round, concave grill, would do brilliant in Melbourne. Almost a Korean Fondue, if I can get away with making this crass connection.
Wendy set me right regarding getting the bike out of custom and with her advice it shouldn’t be a problem.