Saturday, February 16, 2013

Cheolwon and around the DMZ

Cheolwon, a largely clean and still somewhat preserved area in the DMZ between North and South Korea, is full of history as well as being a site for the winter crane migration. In the past couple of years I've tried twice to get on this tour and both times it was cancelled, all because of war games between the divided countries. This year the RAS was again worried that because of the escalated military difficulties between the North and the South the tour would have to be cancelled yet again, but wonderfully it wasn't.

The tour started out at the Seung-il Bridge said to have been designed by Kim Myeong-yeo, who also designed the chimneys of the Jinnampo smelter during the era of Japanese colonial rule. Prior to the Korean War the bridge was half-built by the North Korean Communist regime. (According to the diary of James Patterson when he was 1st Lieutenant of the US 79th Engineering Battalion in Korea in 1952, the bridge was first commenced by the Japanese). In any regard, construction was suspended during the Korea War, and after the war, South Korea continued the construction but using South Korean construction techniques, resulting in some varying building characteristics, e.g. the guardrails being further spaced and looking less aesthetic as well as the span of arches which apparently weren't intended by the original builders.
To spare the on-going wear and tear on the bridge, the iron bridge (Hantan Grand Bridge) to the left was built and the historical Seung-il Bridge now stands as a marker of two countries not unified but nevertheless which worked to connect opposing sides for whatever reason. Vehicular traffic ceased to cross the Seung-il Bridge on Aug 11, 1999, but walkers are encouraged to step out and across.
The Seung-il Bridge has a romantic story behind it, which may be but probably isn't true. The name Seung-il supposedly derived from parts of the names of the South Korean president, Lee SYNG (Seung) Man and the North Korean great leader Kim IL Sung, the leaders of the South and North Korea during the Korean War. Romantic sounding, but very unlikely to be true.

Of course I lost my notes, and so don't have the name of this valley. However, this valley has been likened by South Koreans to the American Grand Canyon ..... hm, I see little likeness.

Check points are established at key spots and all vehicles wishing to cross over into the DMZ area must stop and relate their purpose  length of stay, of course keeping within the margins of the gate curfew (I think they still exist). This area is less regulated than some because the Cheolwon area is not a standard tour destination.

Beyond the DMZ security checkpoint is North Korean infiltration tunnel #2. This was my first time to come to this particular infiltration tunnel. Most tours and visitors are directed to the more popular tunnel #3 that is wider and even now has a monorail for part of the distance. No such conveniences for tunnel #2. Even hard hats are required for any person entering the tunnel, but measure is taken in all of the infiltration tunnels, but very necessary here because the majority of the way down, most of us had to hunch forward so as not to hit our heads on the jagged roof of the blasted tunnel.
Tunnel #2 is located 106km north of Seoul. It was discovered Mar 24, 1975 after an arduous period of excavation work, which began after two soldiers of the Cheongseong (Blue Star) Unit reported hearing explosions during their sentry duty on November 20, 1973. This was the second infiltration tunnel discovered (four total have been discovered). Through this tunnel the North Koreans had the capabilities to invade the South with 16,000 armed men per hour, progressing in battle formation of double or triple columns. During the search for this tunnel, Sergeant Kim Hoyoung and seven other soldiers were killed by land mine explosions and booby traps installed by North Koreans at the interruption wall.
"It appears that North Korea built this infiltration tunnel to infiltrate and harass the South Korean rear line in the event of military emergency, so that they could achieve their ultimate goal of communizing the South by deactivating our defenses. This infiltration tunnel, which arouses our attention" and which tells us the reality is "North Korea has never relented in its absurd ambition for the communizing of the South. This serves us a reminder that we must give our full attention to the defense of our country until the Korean peninsula is reunified into a free and democratic country." [Transcribed from the sign posted outside tunnel #2. If you ask me, this smacks very much of self-righteous propaganda.]

We're not supposed to take pictures inside the tunnel or I would have taken pictures of the sign reading "Land Mine" or the large bell near this sign at the end that, in case of alarm, a person at the bottom could ring the bell for help. Nothing like 'sounding the alarm', but I think the person ringing that huge bell down here would go deaf with the echoes in the closeness of the shaft. In any regard, I just had to take a pict of the very end of the tunnel where visitors were permitted to go, because the sign says it all, "Freedom is not free!"

These are liquors from around or just after the Korean War. I can't remember the proof on these bottles
but they are extremely high proof alcohols!!!

A train that was bombed to hell and back during the Korean War.
It was transported here as a memory to the tragedy that the war created.

One of the most significant buildings in this area of the DMZ. Police headquarters was located next to it but was completely flattened and destroyed. This soviet built building never sustained any large direct hits and with its tough soviet construction was the only building left after the war still standing. The walls are now supported and buttressed from within to keep them from collapsing inward and some additional support has been added.

Obviously this place was shelled with bullets and a lot of power ... it's an amazing testimony to luck
and good construction that it still stands.

The migrating cranes! Oddly, they were almost always grouped in trios, at least during this season.
Someone on the tour said that there are some birds that pair and a third adult bird that looks after the young.
Hm, something to look into for this particular specie.
Photographer: Matt in Gusts of Popular Feeling

A very small deer unique to Korea ... And what an incredible running gait it had, flinging its hind legs high into the air and putting a large arch in its back with every leap! It was gorgeous to see!
Photographer: Matt in Gusts of Popular Feeling

Matt, blogger of Gusts of Popular Feeling, shared this map of the most important sites we visited on our RAS tour.
 It took him quite a while to research the location of these spots, and double big kudos to him for willingly
sharing his work as well as his other wonderful picts as my camera finished dying!

No comments:

Post a Comment