JWU Student Blogs

A Whole New World: Panmunjeon JSA

Yesterday I took a tour of the JSA which stands for Joint Security Area between South and North Korea. A few months ago anyone that turned on the news would have heard threats from King Jong-Un the current leader of North Korea talk about possible attacks on not only South Korea but on the United States. Luckily some of that tension has died down but the truth still stands that the relationship between North and South Korea is forever one of tension and strong emotion.
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To say that I have experienced anything like it in my life would be far from the truth. The reservation for the tour had to be made 5 days ago for a background check. There was a very strict dress code that must be followed the day of the trip; including no unkempt hair, no sandals, no shorts, no jeans, and no sleeveless shirts. When we finally got off the bus we were brought into a small room with a PowerPoint set up, we were asked to read and sign a long document basically stating that if we did something to provoke North Korea things were not their responsibility but they would do their best to protect you. As I sat there reading over the document things suddenly became much more real for me. After signing we watched a video about the history between not only North and South Korea but about the military base we were currently on and why things were the way there were.
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We then boarded a new bus with two South Korean soldiers carrying some type of large gun slung over their shoulder. We arrived to a series of small buildings and were told that half of the room was South Korea and the other half was in North Korea. We entered the building and technically went to North Korea, we were inside for about 5 minutes. As we left I overheard a group of high school boys say “that was it? well that was stupid,” unfortunately I think that because things were calm and safely handled the boys were unaware of the severity of the situation. Looking back you could see 4 North Korean soldiers watching our every move with binoculars.
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For me it was a truly new experience and one that only gave me a brief glimpse of what it must be like for the citizens in North Korea as well as the countless families who have been divided between the two countries and those who have defected. It was an experience I won’t forget anytime soon.