Saturday, October 14, 2017

Yanggu County DMZ Tour

Steve Tharp, retired from serving 40 or more years in the US Army (most of the time in Korea) where he was first a soldier, then an officer and later becoming trained as an expert on Korean affairs, is now retired and leading tours in and around the DMZ area where he has spent many years working. He retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel in 2004 and has remained in Korea doing contract work with the US government. As a foreign negotiations officer, he speaks both Korean and Chinese, skills which make his tours more specific, and he incorporates negotiation or other experiential anecdotes to give perspective to particular areas he's leading tours in. In his retirement years, Steve is just starting out as a tour guide, and the RASKB is delighted to have him lead some tours for them. This is the second tour Steve has a led for the RAS, and it was a very insightful historical journey!

Before heading to Yanggu, we stopped off at the Livingstone Bridge, so named by a second lieutenant in the US Army who was trapped on one side of the river during flood conditions and so he and his troops were shot to bits. He lived long enough to be rescued and taken to medical facilities but with his dying breath sighed, "If there had been a bridge in this river, a great many of the soldiers could yet be alive." And so in his will to his wife, he wrote, "Dedicating all my fortune, make a bridge on this river, please."

Livingstone Bridge - it's a shock that something so serene could have been the site of such suffering and destruction
Monuments in front of and on Livingstone Bridge to commemorate the lives lost here.

Tour Summary:

The day trip to Yanggu includes visits to Dutayeon and the Punchbowl, two sites which abut the Korean DMZ. At Dutayeon, participants will be hike around the site which has both natural beauty as well as security education spots which include military equipment static displays, land mine educational exhibition and a memorial to those soldiers that died at the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge during the Korean War. The Punchbowl is an unusual geologic formation that received its name because it looks like a giant "punch bowl". The Punchbowl is home to Eulji Observatory in the DMZ, North Korean Invasion Tunnel 4 and the Yanggu County Korean War Memorial. Departing at 7AM, the group will spend the morning at the Punchbowl, and after lunch travel to Dutayeon for sightseeing in the afternoon. The group will arrive at Chuncheon at 5 to 6 PM for a dinner of the local famous dish, dalkgalbi, before returning to Seoul around 9 PM.

Punchbowl was the name given to the bowl-shaped Haean-myon valley in Yanggu County, Gangwon Province by UN Forces during the Korean War. The Punchbowl lies south of the Korean Demilitarized Zone. North of the 38th Parallel, it was originally in North Korea until captured by UN forces in late September 1950 during the UN offensive that followed the Inchon landings and the breakout from the Pusan perimeter. UN Forces abandoned the region in mid-December 1950, during the withdrawal following the Chinese People's Volunteer Army intervention in the war. On 4 June 1951 the 1st Marine Division and the ROK 5th Infantry Division began to advance north of Inje towards the Punchbowl and the Hwacheon Reservoir. By June 10 the Marine/ROKA force had secured Line Kansas northeast of the Hwacheon Reservoir and the southern line of hills overlooking the Punchbowl. Following the breakdown of armistice negotiations in August 1951, the United Nations Command decided to launch a limited offensive in the late summer/early autumn to shorten and straighten sections of their lines, acquire better defensive terrain, and deny the enemy key vantage points from which they could observe and target UN positions. 

The Battle of Bloody Ridge took place west of the Punchbowl from August–September 1951 and this was followed by the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge northwest of the Punchbowl from September–October 1951. Meanwhile, the 1st Marine Division reinforced by the Korean Marine Corps Regiment captured the line of hills north of the Punchbowl in the Battle of the Punchbowl from 31 August-20 September 1951. 

Civilian security education sites in the Punchbowl include the Yanggu War Memorial, Unification Hall, North Korean Infiltration Tunnel 4 and Eulji Observatory.

A salute to the dog that sniffed out Tunnel 4 but was killed when he stepped on a land mine.
Posthumously, the dog was promoted from staff sergeant to 2nd lieutenant.
Tunnel 4. Down the mountain and on the northwest portion of the Punchbowl is North Korea’s Invasion Tunnel 4. According to intelligence analysis, it is believed that North Korea began digging tunnels after Kim Il-sung issued the September 25 Combat Readiness Order in 1971. In this order, he stressed the need to dig tunnels through the DMZ saying that one tunnel would be more effective than 10 atomic bombs and would thus be the best means to blow through the ROK Army defenses along the front lines. The tunnels are an integral component of the North Korean military strategy of a quick victory in a blitzkrieg attack on the South. 

In September 1974, a North Korean officer defected in the area just west of Mt. Dora in Paju and told interrogators of the North Korean tunneling effort which led to the discovery of Tunnel 1 in Yeoncheon County on November 15, 1974. This was followed by the discovery of Tunnel 2 in Cheorwon County on March 19, 1975 and Tunnel 3 south of Panmunjom on October 17, 1978. After a break of 12 years, Tunnel 4 was discovered on March 3, 1990 within the Punchbowl in Yanggu County about 200 kilometers from Seoul. This tunnel is at a depth of 145 meters and is 2 meters high by 2 meters in width. Stretching more than a kilometer across the DMZ, it was designed to infiltrate massive forces in the Sowha-Wondong corridor, the major access route to the Yongdong (Seoul-Gangnung) Expressway. The group will view a video before walking into the Tunnel. At the end of the intercept tunnel (on a slight downgrade for about 200 meters-nothing compared to Tunnel 3 at Paju), guests ride a tram about 100 meters through the North Korean tunnel and return without dismounting.
Additional notes:  
A North Korean high up in the party and who defected in 1974 reported that according to NK plan, 18-22 tunnels were to be built. Two months later the first tunnel was discovered. So, the 4 tunnels were discovered in 1974, 1975, 1978, and 1990.  
Tunnel 4 was 2km long when it was discovered and needed 1km more. It is estimated that digging at 3 meters/day, it would have taken 10 more years to finish the tunnel. The tunnel was detected with specialized equipment and then an intercepting shaft was dug. This is the shaft that is now used for tourism.

Eulji Observatory is a South Korean civilian security education center located on the northern lip of the Punchbowl on the edge of the General Outpost (GOP) line which is usually also the southern boundary fence of the DMZ. It is manned by soldiers of the ROK Army 12th Infantry Division, and Eulji is the division’s name (for a famous ancient Korean general Eulji Mundok, who successfully defended the ancient Korean Goguryeo Kingdom against the Sui Chinese). Photos are not allowed to the north, but there is a photo area on the south side with the Punchbowl as a background. The observatory is located in the Korean demilitarized zone about 1 kilometer from the military demarcation line. On a clear day, the five peaks of Mt. Geumgangsan in North Korea are visible from the observatory platform. ROK Army Soldiers provide briefings to visitors on the local area and answer questions but do not allow picture taking of the DMZ and northern area.

Unification Hall and Yanggu War Memorial are co-located at the Punchbowl tour registration site and is by necessity the first stop. The Unification Hall exhibition center has two display rooms, all in Korean, dedicated to explaining different aspects of North Korean life and attempts for South-North reconciliation over the years since the Armistice was signed. On the north side (left) is a group of military equipment static displays while on the south is the Yanggu War Memorial, a “chronological walk-through” facility with the lead up to the Korean War near the entrance and the Armistice Agreement signing near the exit. 

Opened on June 20, 2000, the War Memorial Museum was built to commemorate the sacrifice and heroism of those who fought during the Korean War at the nine major battlefields located in the Yanggu area: Dosolsan, Daeusan, Bloody Ridge, Baekseoksan, Punch Bowl, Gachilbong, Heartbreak Ridge, Hill 949, and Christmas Hill. The museum also reminds the current and future generations of the real cost of war and the sacrifices that were made. The exhibition hall is divided according to themes: freedom, welcoming, meeting, understanding, experience, assurance, tribute, rooftop, and contemplation. Exhibition facilities include a high-quality imaging system and a three-way multi imaging room that combines battle scene dioramas, videos, and slides. In addition to the military static displays, there is a monument to all of the Korean and United Nations Command Soldiers that fought in the Korean War.

Dutayeon (Duta Pond) is located on a branch of the Suipcheon stream that originates from the Mt. Gumgang area and flows through Bangsan-myeon in the Civilian Control Zone abutting the Korean DMZ about 165 kilometers northeast of Seoul. It derives its name derived from the Duta Saran Temple, which was located in this area about a thousand years ago. The water going from the miniature falls into the pond is limited but as it drops from one level to the next, it forms the shape of the Korean Peninsula. The surrounding forest provides superb scenery while the pollution-free waters provide a perfect habitat for Korea’s largest lenok (Manchurian trout) population. 

A 20-meter screen of flat rocks surrounds the pond and the east wall features a 10-meter square cave, the floor of which is imprinted with the shape of a comb and a horse harness. A close look at the rocks from the viewing stand to the south and you can envision a man and a woman about to kiss. The left side is the man and the right side is the woman’s face. The woman is tilting her head up and looking at the man. Even though the man and woman in love are standing apart, they convey the longing for unification just as the Korean people wish for the unification of the Korean Peninsula. 

The memorial to the Korean War Battle of Heartbreak Ridge is located north of the pond. Additionally, in the area between the Heartbreak Ridge Memorial and the pond is a field with outdoor modern art exhibit and military equipment static displays. The military equipment consists of artillery and armored vehicles used since the Korean War which stands in sharp contrast to the modern art exhibits. At the viewing stand to the south of the pond is a hand molded from actor So Ji-sub so that he could shake the hand of everyone who visited Dutayeon. It is on the path to the land mine exhibit dedicated to explaining about the different types of land mines that are typically found in the Korean DMZ.
Info on this page directly lifted from the Royal Asiatic Society Korean Branch excursion page, as were all photos noted as such.

No comments:

Post a Comment