August 21, 2012


The northeastern-most point of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between South and North Korea is about 50 kilometers from the beach town of Sokcho. Of course, calling the world's most heavily fortified border demilitarized is like calling the many hours that Koreans spend in the office productive. I was accompanied by Adrian, an avid rock climber, to the Goseong Unification Observatory.

There was no simple way to reach the viewpoint near the border without an automobile. After taking a succession of buses, each stopping at its terminal and telling us that no buses would go any further, we were given a ride to the DMZ by a friendly mixed race couple. The man was Chinese and the lady was Korean, a rare combination in the land of racial purity and ethnic hierarchy.

We had to climb a hill to reach the viewpoint, passing the cleverly labelled "Last Restroom" on the way  up to the summit. I was able to glimpse North Korea for the second time, with the first being from atop the Great Wall in the Chinese border outpost of Dandong. I used the telescope to get a closer look but could not see much apart from a few foot soldiers and some supply trucks. The scenery was a blend of green hills, sandy beaches, blue skies, turquoise waves, and barbed wire. Chain link fencing on the coastline was an eyesore, but an integral part of the security measures taken by both sides to prevent hostiles from intruding into their lands.

We stopped by at the recently constructed DMZ Museum before heading back. A chronology of the various events that led to the current situation was explained in layman's terms, culminating with a message of peace and hope for a shared future. The couple lived in Sokcho, so they offered us a ride all the way there. We treated them to lunch at a seaside restaurant, and then dozed off in the back of the car as it made its way back to town.


"You have to be able to risk your identity for a bigger future than the present you are living." – Fernando Flores