Saturday, January 27, 2007

Hangover DMZ Tour 2007

The next morning I woke up at 6am dragged my hung-over ass over to the USO office to go on a tour to the North/South Korean border to the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone). So I and a busload of military guys rode for 2 hours over to the DMZ. I prayed for the gods to give me hangover relief as I listened to the tour guide talk over the mike. Once we arrived we were greeted by UN Army soldiers that had a laundry list of rules. You could take pictures here and here, but not there. You have to walk single file in a line and stick with the guide. We had to keep our hands in our pockets because hand gesturing was not allowed. Otherwise the North Korean soldiers would cross the neutral zone and cut us down. I’m not sure if the one North Korean soldier would leave his post to kill me because I was giving the bird, but I wasn’t going to take my chances….especially with a hang-over.

I developed a crush on our tour guide (maybe it was the don’t gesture or the North Koreans will axe you to death comment). He was from Russia and won some kind of lottery for American citizenship when he was 17. He had no accent whatsoever. I was impressed nonetheless. Me and the military…I can never shake that love affair. I suppose living in Hawaii and having a limited dating pool of military guys did that to me. I listened to the tour guide talk about the training of the South Korean soldiers and the UN buildings with great interest (haha).

After the neutral zone tour they took us to a series of tunnels that the North Koreans dug out trying to invade South Korea. I watched a number of propaganda films that touted the reunification of North and South Korea. The Koreans at my company seemed surprised that I went on this particular tour. They approach the issue so differently than Americans. They seemed to be out of sight out of mind about the situation. The reunification idea seemed like a cruel joke. From my personal observation of the Koreans I talked to, they seemed uninterested in joining the 2 separate countries. After the brainwashing movies, they let us stare at the actual border between the Koreas. No pictures were allowed. One women had her camera confiscated and her pictures deleted by the South Korean soldiers. They were very strict. I found humor in the two guards because one of them was ridiculously taller then the other.

After the border staring at, we were herded onto buses again and were taken to the tunnels that North Korea dug out to invade South Korea. It was a rather interesting tour. They painted the walls black and when the tunnels were discovered, they said, "Oopsie, we were digging for coal and accidently dug our way to South Korea." Apparently several tunnels existed and were discovered over the last 20 or so years. I wasn't supposed to take pictures here either, but just to kind of stick to everyone for telling me not to- I did anyway. I hope the UN doesn't invade my house and seize my computer.

After the tour I ate with some strangers and immediately befriended them. They invited me out that night and I happily obliged. They too were in a class for training for the Navy. They seemed nice, so I arranged to meet with them later at their hotel. We ate an Italian dinner and drank at a German bar. It was a nice change from the Korean restaurants and tourist bars I had been frequenting. I drank beer with a girl named Laura and 2 Navy guys- Jason and Mike. None of us knew each other very well at all and in the middle of drinking, Mike decided he had forgotten all of our names. I stayed out until 7am and got ready for another day of tour sight seeing fun.

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