一直很想去北韓，但帶著美籍的 Kim 遊北韓簡直是天方夜譚，所以今趟首爾之行，我們決定到南北韓邊界的板門店一看。
韓國旅遊官網上列有幾間專辦板門店一日遊的旅行社，行程大致相同，只是出發時間和景點次序不一，標準的共同警備區（JSA） 行程公價為 85,000 韓元一位，外國遊客必須在 4 天前以電郵報名，持香港特區護照更要附上副本作審查。由於行程需配合政府和軍區安排，不管你報哪一間旅行社，出發地點都是巿廳旁的總統酒店。導遊說，曾試過開車後才接到電話被告知 JSA 全面封閉，所以能否順利參觀實屬彩數。
那麼現時美韓局勢緊張，時刻聽說要開戰，我們到訪 JSA 又是否自投羅網呢？這個問題，在板門店的聯合國美軍憲兵說每天都被遊客問幾次。他解釋在邊界地區對軍事情報特別敏銳，但過去半年內並未見異樣，若有危險，這些觀光團會第一時間被取消。
在三八線的非軍事區（DMZ）中，有一條有 220 人口的「自由之村」農社，他們不用納稅和服兵役，子女可以隨意選擇國內任何一所大學入讀。村內實行戒嚴，男人不得入贅，女性一但外嫁便喪失戶籍，村民每年要住上 265 日才能保持戶籍。看來所謂「自由」，還是有不少附帶條件。
Step on North Korea Soil／Kimberlogic
Ming Hay and I like to explore things on our own when we travel, but since we wanted to visit the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and the Joint Security Area (JSA), the actual border between North and South Korea, the only way was to join a tour that was conducted by US military.
Whilst on the bus heading up to the DMZ, our tour guide pointed out a few times when we could see North Korea. Everyone on the bus got excited and looked out the window, but really, it was the same landscape that surrounded us in South Korea, there was just a large barbwire fence between.
It wasn’t until we headed to the JSA that things started to get interesting and serious. At the first checkpoint a Korean Soldier boarded the bus and checked everyone’s ID, at the second checkpoint a US Soldier boarded our bus and rechecked everyone’s ID. Then, we entered the UN military base and had to wait for a US Soldier to lead us into a briefing room to give us a little history and tell us all about the rules and regulations. From there, we then had to board a military bus to enter in to the JSA and the remainder of our tour was guided by the US Soldier.
The most interesting part of the tour was when we were brought to the actual line separating the two countries. On this line was a building that is used as a conference room for both sides. Half of the room is in North Korea and half in South Korea. Although we were allowed to freely walk around the room and cross over to the North Korean side, we were warned that North Korean Soldiers could come in at any time. The room was guarded by two South Korean Soldiers who held the highest degree of Taekwondo training.
It was so cool to cross the room and know that I was in North Korea, but in reality, it was uneventful, there was no sign of any North Korean personnel throughout our entire time at the JSA. After leaving the conference room we were able to stand a few meters away from the border line and look at the North Korean building in the distance with one soldier standing out front.
I recently visited my family in the USA and was shocked every time I watched any of their major news stations. The way the news is presented in the US, one would think Korea is one of the most dangerous places on earth. Although the war technically isn’t over and there is just a cease fire agreement, the border is heavily protected on both sides and nothing really happens there. At the end of the tour, our US Soldier guide even told us that they would never bring civilians to this area if there was any threat of danger.
The tour was informative and exciting. Since that is the only way for me and Ming Hay to go to North Korea together, it was a great day and one more tick off of my list of things I want to do and see in my lifetime.