Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)

#10 in Best Things To Do in Seoul
Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) picture
Bryan Dorrough/Flickr

Details

Monuments and Memorials, Tours Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
4.0

scorecard

  • 3.0Value
  • 4.0Facilities
  • 3.5Atmosphere

A mere 35 miles north of Seoul, the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is a 148-mile-long, 2-mile-wide swath of land marking the division between North and South Korea. Running close to the infamous 38th Parallel (the final front in the Korean War), the DMZ was set up in 1953 as a buffer zone between the two warring countries. The Military Demarcation Line – the actual border between North and South Korea – has been heavily manned on both sides by military personnel ever since. And though there have only been a few minor military altercations in the past 60 years, tensions remain between the two sides. In fact, since the DMZ was set up through an armistice and not a peace treaty, North Korea and South Korea are technically still at war.

You may think a daytrip to the DMZ is a fool's errand, but it is actually an extraordinarily popular thing to do when visiting Seoul. A number of companies run tours to Panmunjom, an abandoned town that straddles the Military Demarcation Line where the famous Joint Security Area is located. It was here that North Korean, South Korean, Chinese, American and United Nations diplomats signed the Korean War Armistice Agreement on July 27, 1953. Visitors are invited to place their feet on either side of a line that runs along the building's floor separating the two nations – one foot in South Korea and the other in North Korea. Tourists can also peer out at the mysterious country to the north through mounted telescopes.

Many tours of the DMZ also include a visit to Imjingak – a park that features relics from the Korean war as well as monuments and a lookout point that faces North Korea – and to the Third Tunnel of Aggression, one of four tunnels dug by the North Koreans leading under the DMZ into South Korea. While North Korean officials maintain that the tunnel was dug for coal mining, South Korea found no coal in the vicinity. Recent visitors caution that the journey into the tunnel can be strenuous; because of its low ceiling, many travelers had to stoop for the duration of the short hike. Also, be warned that the various areas of the DMZ can get very crowded. That said, most visitors still found the overall experience to be exciting, powerful and moving.

There are several companies that run DMZ tours. The United Service Organizations (USO) tours by Koridoor offer affordable DMZ tours. A half-day tour costs $36 per person, while a full-day tour costs $65. For more information about DMZ tours, visit Koridoor's official website.

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Namsan Park and N Seoul Tower1 of 10
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#1 Namsan Park and N Seoul Tower

Home to five warning beacons and a protective city wall during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), Mount Namsan now hosts a park and a smattering of tourism sites like an aquarium, a library and a bevy of beautiful walking trails.

But most people visit Namsan Park for its panoramic views of Seoul. To scope it out for free, visit Palgakjeong, an octagon-shaped viewing pavilion that boasts alluring vistas of the city. For an even more breathtaking sight, shell out a few won to get to the observation platform atop N Seoul Tower, Namsan Park's real showstopper. Recent visitors said that on clear days, the view from 1,574 feet up is spectacular. Out on the sky deck, you can't miss the thousands of padlocks attached to the fence; couples lock them there as symbols of everlasting love (bring your own lock if you're feeling romantic). For an extra-special experience, reserve a table for dinner in the rotating French restaurant, n.GRILL, on the tower's top floor. 

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