The final leg of our DMZ tour took place in Cheorwon. It’s a South Korean county located right next to the border. It was originally part of North Korea after the division of Korea in 1945. It was a major battlefield during that war and changed hands multiple times. After the war, the county was split in half with one part belonging to North and the other to South Korea.
This isn’t really that closely related to the DMZ, but a cool spot to visit either way. It’s a big rock that is located right next to the Hantangang River. Very pretty.
Cheorwon Peace Observatory:
This place offers a great view of the DMZ. Compared to the observatory described in part two, you can’t see as much of North Korea itself, but you get a great view of the DMZ itself. As the DMZ has been largely untouched since the 1950s, it has turned into quite an ecological retreat and hosts many endangered species. Definitely also worth a visit for the great views. I think you’re not really supposed to take pictures, but nobody told us not to so…whatever. You can take a monorail up the hill to get to the observatory. There’s also a small museum there and a presentation room showing a video about the area. While sitting in the observatory, we also were able to talk a bit with a North Korean defector that was part of our tour group and told us some fascinating stuff about growing up in North Korea and escaping. Quite a harrowing tale.
White Horse Ridge:
This was a scene of brutal prolonged battles over one of the highest hilltops of the area. That hilltop was of strategic importance as it allowed the controlling party to observe troop movements of the opposing side, and so the fight over it was one of the most brutal in the Korean war. Over the span of ten days, control of the hill changed a whopping 24 times. The area was also bombared heavily, which apparently destroyed most of the habitation and made the hill look like a bare white horse, hence the name. Nowadays, no signs of this destruction remain.
Nowadays, it has been turned into a memorial site. A soldier gave us a small tour and explained some of the details of the battles to us.
After that, it was time to head back to Seoul. All in all, I highly recommend checking out the DMZ. As mentioned before, this place has a very unique and weird atmosphere, constantly going back and forth between a commercialized tourist site that feels super safe and vaguely optimistic, to stark reminders of the ongoing conflict and a vague feeling of hopelessness. I’d recommend planning in ahead as you will need to register in advance. There are multiple tours available by multiple providers, so you might need to browse around to find the right one for you.
Despite the DMZ being quite close to Seoul, you will probably spend quite a lot of time traveling. In our case, the trip back from Cheorwon took about two and a half hours. So better come prepared and bring a movie with you to pass the time. I recommend this one: