Continuing our DMZ deep dive, we left the Third Tunnel and our trusty bus brought us to Dorasan Station, which is a railway station found on the Gyeongui, that once connected the North and South. It’s about 700 yards from the border of the DMZ.
Here is our guide Lee (<3) giving us TRU FAX.
Trains still occasionally run here from Seoul, I think about 1-4 times a day, but it’s mostly for tourist purposes. This station is now largely symbolic for hopes of a reunification. If that happens, this could provide a reconnection between South Korea and the rest of the continent, as there have long been plans for this track to extend into Russia and beyond.
Dorasan means Mt. Dora. I KNOW YOU DIDN’T ASK BUT I AM TELLING YOU.
Since it’s not used for high-volume commuting as planned, the inside of the station has preserved that sparkly new-new ambiance.
Someday, this train could run regularly to Pyeongyang, North Korea, and even beyond. I’ve talked about this with my friend Jiyong and she said that most Koreans do believe that this could be a reality someday. How incredible would that be? I hope that one day in the future, if I return to South Korea (lol, “if” yeah right I’ll be back in you soon, SK), this dream will be realized and my next visit to Dorasan Station will see it bustling with travelers.
For 1,000 Won (a little less than a buck), you can purchase a ticket to enter the platform. Of course Chooch and I both did this but Henry opted out because he needed to call G-Dragon’s pension to arrange our transportation and was super nervous about potentially talking to GD’s dad on the phone. (J/K, he wasn’t nervous about that, but he was having a hell of a time making the call from a non-Korean phone number. He actually wasn’t able to do it and had to wait until we got back to our hotel later that evening, and then it took him like 45 minutes to figure out how to dial after Googling “How do you call a Korean phone number” hahaha, lame-o.)
It was basically just the people from our tour who were out there, so we got to really stand there and take it all in with getting jostled by crowds of tourists. It made the experience feel more real and less of a tourist spot.
George W. Bush visited the DMZ in 2002 and gave a speech at Dorasan Station.
There was a time when this image would have made me cringe, but it’s amazing how our current “leader” has dulled the negative opinions I’ve had on certain past presidents.
North Korea is thattaway, you guys.
I don’t know what would happen if you walked past that sign and just started walking, because no one was out there guarding it or anything. I tried to get Chooch to find out, but he said, “Nah I’m good.”
There’s a piece of the Berlin Wall on display here, which is HEAVY. (I mean, the history and symbolism are heavy, but yes, that piece of the wall is probably also very heavy.)
There was actually an industrial complex, like a factory, in North Korea, where South Koreans also worked, and freight trains would pass through Dorasan Station to take materials to Kaesong Industrial Complex, until the North accused the South of some confrontational something or other and closed off the border.
So it seems like, over the years, there have been little pockets of hope here and there but nothing that has been substantial enough to turn into a full reunification.
We left Dorasan and moved on to Imjingdak Park. You don’t need to be a part of an organized tour group in order to come here. You can just take a train or hop on a bus from Seoul and come out to this beautiful park to soak in the history….and maybe take a ride on the Super Viking…
Dude, Viking Ships are BELOVED in South Korea. In fact, I am strongly considering getting a viking ship charm for my charm bracelet instead of a tiny gold hanok or some other intrinsically Korean object.
Lee said she’s often asked why there would be an amusement park here, so close to the border, and her answer really resonated with me. She said that people still live there and contrary to popular belief, they don’t actually live in fear. Lee pointed out that if North Korea does intend to go full-blown nuclear one day, those missiles can reach freaking Alaska.
Many families were pulled apart during the Korean conflict and those in the South are still trying desperately to be reunited with estranged family members. There was a TV show to help these efforts and people wrote down their addresses and phone numbers to be posted here in Imjingdak.
This was so sad to see.
One of the Korean boys in our group was about to sit in one of those chairs for a picture until he realized that these were Korean Comfort Women monuments. He quickly changed his made after that! This was actually an underlying part of the protests happening in Seoul during the time we were there – yes, trade wars, but also the fact that Koreans aren’t satisfied with Japan’s restitution for the forced labor they put upon Koreans during Japan’s colonization. That history is still pretty fresh, when you think about it, because many of those people who were affected are still alive, or are direct descendants of those who were brutally mistreated during Japan’s rule.
It’s so depressing.
I loved this beautiful, peaceful area.
Chooch bought that beaded bracelet on our DMZ Tour and then I wanted one too but then Henry was being a weirdo so I said FINE FORGET IT and he was all I DIDN’T SAY NO but he had that DAD LOOK on his face which means I DON’T WANT TO TAKE MY WALLET OUT AGAIN. I think this was the only real conflict we had that day, to be honest.
You can see the observatory in the background. This building also had a Korean restaurant and…I think there was a Popeye’s?! Lunch was actually included on this tour and I appreciated that it wasn’t in this touristy cesspool of chain restaurants!
People write messages to their families in North Korea on these ribbons.
For as somber as the history is, this place actually had an upbeat vibe to it. Some kind of Korean YMCA song was blasted on repeat:
…and there were people cheering on bikers as they raced through the area:
“Fighting” is a term Koreans regularly use to show support and encouragement, like how we’d say, “You can do it!” or “I’m rooting for you!” in English. It was actually one of the first Korean words/phrases I learned three years ago!
Imjingak has an observatory which allows for better views of the desolate Freedom Bridge, and also here is a nice view of Henry’s Trapper Keeper couture.
The Freedom Bridge is also known as the Bridge of No Return. After the 1953 Korean War armistice, there was an exchange of POWs on this bridge. The name was derived from the fact that the prisoners of war voluntarily in favor of choosing North Korea were unable to return to South Korea for good. After the murder of two US soldiers in 1976, it was shutdown. I’ll get to that murder in the JSA portion of this series of blog posts.
Then we were nearly the last people to make it back to the bus and I was filled with that old, familiar panic that I used to get on all of those old Globus vacations where my aunt would be busy bartering in a jewelry shop while everyone else was back on the bus and the tour guide was standing in the parking lot tapping her watch.
But thank god for that old man on crutches because he and his wife were the actual last ones on the bus every single time. Bless up.
STAY TUNED OR GET…PRUNED…?