Korea’s Demilitarised Zone or DMZ got added to may tourists’ must-see list post the K-drama Crash Landing on You’s release in 2019. But, millions used to visit pre-pandemic, too, as per the Korean tourist authorities.
Not your average tourist spot, the isolated area of DMZ seems to attract many, especially as it allows you a glimpse of life across the border. From the observatory on top of Mount Dora or Dorasan located close to the DMZ buffer zone, you can see a North Korean village at a short distance from a South Korean village, along with stretches of forest cover that apparently house endangered otters, water deer and spoonbills.
The past gives way to the present
The Korean Armistice Agreement was signed on July 27, 1953, between North and South Korea, when the Korean War that began on June 25, 1950, was suspended, not ended.
Both armies withdrew by two kilometres on either side from the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) or the border between the two countries along the 38th parallel north latitude. This area is called the Demilitarised Zone or DMZ, located in the Gyeonggi-do province outside Seoul.
Extending from the DMZ for about 10 kilometres on either side is the Civilian Control Line or CCL. Traditionally this is a highly restricted area but there were always villages here, especially soybean farmers. So, post the Armistice, residents of the farming village continued living there and farming. But, they do have to follow strict access rules and curfews.
About two kilometres away from the DMZ, within the civilian area, is located Camp Greaves.
What is Camp Greaves?
It is “one of the oldest US military bases in South Korea, which was built in 1953 and served as a base for the 506th US Second Infantry Division for about 50 years until the division withdrew in August 2004”, according to the Camp Greaves literature provided to visitors.
It now features several exhibition halls and art projects as part of a cultural regeneration initiative, along with being used as a filming site for Korean drama, TV shows and music videos, such as the Song Joong-Ki-Song Hye-ko starrer Descendants of the Sun.
An important exhibit at the center is the ‘Powder Magazine’, which is essentially a concrete building so solid that it can withstand within it any explosion – it was built to supply ammunition to US bases in the Munsan area. Currently it houses various art installations that aim to promote peace.
The other major project is the Gallery Greaves Special Exhibition titled ‘Portrait of the Days of Youth, Days of our Youth’. It includes moving images, footage, personal items and pictures. It tells the stories of young Korean soldiers, fallen UN Forces, of American war correspondents John Rich and Pulitzer-winning Marguerite Higgins – a witness to the Korean War that claimed over 3 million casualties.