Friday, March 4, 2011

Panmunjeom (판문점)

Had heard and read a lot about this extraordinary place in movies and newspapers. Never felt that I would get the opportunity to be present there physically.It was a field-trip and that trip happen to be my long awaited one among others.The trip although partially successful was a good experience in understanding more about the Korean society.

Panmunjeom,also Known as Joint security Area(JSA) is a village on the border between North and South Korea,where the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement that ended the Korean War was signed. It lies in the Korean militarized zone.On August 15, 1945, Korea gained its independence from Japan after 35 years of occupation but South and North Korea each took vastly different forms of government. The ideological differences of these governments lead to the start of the Korean War on June 25, 1950, and lasted just over 3 years,ending on July 27, 1953. There were no winners, however; the war ended in a stalemate and the resulting DMZ, which separated the country left the pain of division in place until today.

Only two and half hours drive from Seoul and it seems the roads leading to the place has something unique to it unlike others.In fact Just an hour drive from Seoul one can feel the difference and strangeness of the place that we are visiting.Army bunkers dots the sides of the roads and high rises and shops disappear slowly.There is heavy security at the main gate leading to the village.A thorough identification is done for all the tourist.It should be noted that Panmunjeom is oneof the top tourist destinations in Korea and people need to apply much before in advance and individual visit is forbidden.The roads leading to the village makes some twist and turns.The Joint security Area,JSA has both the US and Korean Army.One needs to follow each and every instructions of the soldiers there for one's own safety.There is a small auditorium inside the camp where briefing was carried out about the place and some of the important things one need to take care of.Photography is strictly prohibited except when permitted to do so.One could land in trouble if instructions are not followed.Luck seemed to be not in our side as we were informed that we had to returned back without completing the trip. It was also raining and we were able to take a glimpse of the place from inside the coach.Somehow we could get a glimpse of North although not as we had expected.

Although the trip was not complete as planned but it was great experience and could feel the importance of the place.One could feel the gravity of the situation in the border and how it affects the day to day life of every Koreans.Peace has eluded the peninsula for more than 6 decades.Thousands of people died and wounded in the Korean War.Families were divided and still many have not met nor in contact for long time.War make the life of people miserable.Panmunjeom is an example of how political ideology and belief can have an adverse impact on the life of common people.

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