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Visiting the DMZ, and taking "one step" into North Korea

THIS IS PAGE 1: Inside the Joint Security Area and North Korea

The easy way to check North Korea off your list of visited countries is to take an official tour of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) from the South, specifically one which includes a visit to the
United Nations-controlled Joint Security Area (JSA, and sometimes referred to as Panmunjom, a former village on the North side that was located here and where the 1953 armistice was signed).  
The DMZ is 250 kilometres (160 miles) long, and at least 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) wide (a much wider buffer zone exists in many areas on the South side). Here, with a US-UN soldier as your
guide, you will visit the blue conference rooms that are used for diplomatic discussions between the North and South and get to step about 15 feet over the Military Demarcation Line (MDL)
into North Korea. The limited tour requires a passport (to be sent ahead of time) and official escort at all times. Photos are only allowed at two designated spots inside the DMZ: at the blue
buildings, inside and out, and at the dropoff where the bus brings you for your tour (and yes, there is a gift shop at the DMZ). Just outside the DMZ, a public park is located at the bridge where
POWs were returned long ago and where South Koreans can come to pray and hope for unity. This photo gallery shows what you will see on a tour of the DMZ, inside and out. (Of note, before
you are allowed on the tour, you must sign a waiver that reads "The visit to the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom will entail entry into a hostile area and possibility of injury or death as a direct
result of enemy action.")

PAGE 2: The DMZ and Imjingak park

Below, our small group is briefed on what the conference room is used for. This building, the central and main one of the blue complex, is known as the MAC building, which takes its name from
the United Nations Command, Military Armistice Commission, or UNCMAC. The table we are standing around straddles the MDL, with the three microphones, which are always on and
recording, lining the border precisely. The entire time spent in the building is about five minutes and your limited time taking photos (inside, and outside beforehand as well) is dictated with a
"start" and "stop" command each of the two times:
Our military guide briefs the group while a South Korean soldier straddles the MDL. During your tour from the South, only soldiers from the South
(and US) are present and are here for the group's protection. Tours are also given on the North side, in which only North Korean soldiers are present
for the same reason. During our visit, only one North Korean soldier was visibly present, at the entrance to the North's Panmon Hall (the main
building visible on the North side; see next photo, upper right). This is standard procedure, at least during tours.
View outside the MAC Building and with the North's Panmon Hall in the background. One Northern
KPA (Korean People's Army) soldier can be seen near the entrance:
These photos are taken from outside Freedom House, the name given to the South's main building. Photos are not allowed
looking back at Freedom House despite the fact that many photos of it are taken during tours given by the North:
The Joint Security Area (JSA) visitor center and, yes, gift shop. This is where your tour officially begins and
ends. A temple is located on site (below):
The pose was not intentional! I only noticed this after going through the photos:
Temporary badge worn during your visit. You are not allowed to keep them: