After the Second World War ended and the Japanese were ousted
from South Korea, the USA occupied the south of the peninsula,
while the USSR (now Russia) took over the north. Elections
to decide the fate of the country were held only in the south,
and when the south declared its independence, the north invaded.
The ensuing war lasted until 1953. By the time the war ended,
two million people had died and the country had been officially
divided with one in seven families being separated by the
38th parallel - or the DMZ (demilitarised zone).
Visiting the DMZ
The region of the DMZ is 2.5 miles wide by 250 miles in length
but P'anmunjom, situated 40 miles north of Seoul, is
the only place in the Demilitarised Zone where visits are
permitted. For any visitor to Korea it is well worth the trip
to this truce village on which the cease-fire line was established
at the end of the Korean War in 1953. It is a frightening
place, where the tension still hangs in the air, and where
the tense stand-off has at times erupted into violence, with
death on both sides. In 1976, two American servicemen were
hacked to death with axes by North Koreans and in 1983 a Russian
tourist defected to the North triggering a gun battle that
killed three North Koreans and one Korean soldier.
It is clear that the shadow of the civil war still looms heavily
over Korean life. In fact, one unusual method of earning a
quick buck is to turn in a North Korean spy - the government
pays from $800 to $3,500 for each one you report. There is
even a special hotline dedicated to catching spies - Pierce
Brosnan eat your heart out!
Flora and fauna
Despite sounding gruesome, the DMZ is genuinely a thrilling
place to all fans of history and modern warfare. It's also
a great place to experience nature on the Eastern shore, which
is a habitat for 46 species of birds including the spot-billed
duck and black-tailed gull, as well as other rare species
of flora and fauna like fresh water turtles, terrapins and
butterflies. Even Siberian Tiger are thought to exist
in the area thanks to regeneration. The region's name "Keum-Su-Gang-San"
translates as "land of embroidered rivers and mountains"
and it's a space of natural wonder as it has been left virtually
untouched since the War, allowing nature to take over. Campaigns
are under way to try to persuade the Northern and Southern
governments to turn the region into a World Peace Park and
If you want to experience one of the most interesting tours
that Korea has to offer, check out with your hotel for organised
tours and check in for the trip of a lifetime.