Tuesday, 10 February 2004

DMZ Part 2

Ok, so from the previous entry.

Arrived in Seoul and we were in plenty of time to get the tourbus to the DMZ. The DMZ is about an hour's drive north so there was plenty of time for our guide to give us some of the history and politics.

I've read a fair bit about North and South Korean politics and history since I've been here, and H moreso. Matt is a kiwi so doesn't have any such sensibilities. So most of what we were told was like a summary, but it was still very interesting, especially as we'd be pointed out things as we were driving - just as North Korea situated just over a river, the South Korean billboard propaganda opposite, and the tank wall by the side of the road. This is a wall packed with explosives so if North Korea decides to pour their 1950's ex Soviet tanks into the South, the wall's can be detonated and hold up the North for a while. Knowing the efficiency of North Korea's regime, it might take them several years to pass each wall.

Most of our bus were Japanese, as part of a large Japanese tour which filled the other tourbus ahead, so the commentary was dual language. In fact, there were only about 12 English speakers on board, and one of them I admit becoming more than a little obsessed with.

It was this guy with a beard. Not just any beard but a breathtakingly stupid chinbeard. Some very carefully trimmed black beard at the sides, trimmed into a point, then a big tufty bit on the chin. No upper lip hair. He also had big black pretentious glasses, and I learnt later he was Canadian. He clearly thought he was the coolest thing since French jazz, but he looked such a tosser. And I found myself unable to stop myself laughing at him every time he walked past. With him were three girls. One with a fat ass, one arrogant, pretentious looking one, and ne who actually looked ok. But any girl who associates with that guy has to be a silly cow. He dominated my thoughts for much of the tour, but fortunately didn't obscure it all.

Our English speaking Korean tourguide was a delightful woman. Very enthusiastic, very knowledgable, very keen to share her knowledge and with a fervency close to fascism about taking photos of every conceivable moment of interest (when we were allowed to take photos as some places were military sensitive). Her passion really came across and made me, Matt and H eager to listen just to please her.

First stop was Freedom Bridge, which was just a bridge with barbed wire in front of it. There was other stuff too, like monuments, but this was all before the DMZ anyway. We stopped for a while, bought some souvenirs, and got back on the bus. Into a more military area and then into the actual DMZ itself, past some anti-tank walls and minefields.

Dinner at Camp Bonifas, which was American food imported for the US GI's benefit. It was a big buffet meal so I stuffed my face with pizza.

A briefing then, on more history of the DMZ. I would retell it to you but I can't be bothered. Basically, it's the zone which is the border between the north and south, very heavy militarized and the scene of various minor scuffles amidst very heavy tension. The North is a mentalist regime, originally under the absolute control of The Great Leader, Kim Il Sung, but since his death under the absolute control of The Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il. The North is very poor with all resources poured into the military, very paranoid about all foreigners, and almost impossible to reason with especially as they now have nuclear capability. The South, while not perfect in its time, is at least now democratic, progressing rapidly with a high quality of life for its citizens, and a well respected member of the international community. Just one with an evil twin brother.

Whenever you tell the story about the two Koreas, it always sounds like you're reciting propaganda from the South, but that's because the North are so bizarre that it makes the truth sound one sided.

Then was the main attraction of the trip - to the actual border line of the two nations. In a building where we regimantly had to stay in a line, not allowed to stop and dawdle, and a healthy number of military.

We went into a building, a small hut really, called the Mac Building, or something like that. There are a few of them, all in a line, used for negotiations, and they straddle both countries as the border cuts each building in half.

Inside were two South Korean soldiers, and they looked unbelievably hard. Photos were allowed with them, but they stood unflinchingly still, looking like psycho robots, with their hands ready to pull their guns out. They were massive, and not people I ever want to mess with.

And to my surprise, we were even allowed to cross over to North Korea. So technically, I've been to the North, although I won't be crossing it off my list. It felt... just like the south.

Right, that was the climax of it all. After, we saw some other stuff, like the distant North Korean propaganda village and the biggest flag in the world, then headed back to Seoul where I bought a couple of CDs. Then to Cheonan where we saw a film and went out for a few drinks (uh... till 6.30am) with H's friends who me and Matt eventually decided annoyed us.

Although one - no joke - had been to a naked party with President Bush's daughter Laura Bush, at Yale University. And Miss L. Bush has no bush, she claimed. Trimmed to smoothness, it appears.

I was feeling like purest hell, like a true repenting sinner on Sunday and just got the train home where I slinked to bed for the rest of the day.

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