Can you picture what will be, So limitless and free, Desperately in need…of some…stranger’s hand, In a…desperate land. – Jim Morrison, The End
Goseong DMZ – End of the Line
We’re at the end of the line after two days of driving north. There were beautiful memories along the way but this was the point of it all. It’s time to head back to the Korean DMZ but this time on the Eastern and less publicized side. The first trip came on a January day more characterized by blistering cold and frozen rivers. Also, there were no Koreans other than our guide and bus driver on that day. Today, we’ll be the only foreigners in attendance at the Goseong DMZ.
The Goseong DMZ is easier for locals to enter but its location all the way up in Gangwon Province’s northeastern tip creates a long journey for those venturing from Seoul and other cities. Goseong’s Unification Observatory is the main draw and aside from serving North Korean goods not usually found, its lofty perch offers exquisite views and opportunities for pictures of North Korean mountains.
A Buddha and Virgin Mary Statue face North Korea as a message that the South is “praying” for unification someday. While that’s a tricky matter to tackle, the gesture is at least welcome if not controversial in itself. Unlike the tours organized from Seoul, the atmosphere is highly relaxed and almost carnival-like when crowded. It’s somewhat shocking to hear children making machine gun noises pointing at the north and NOT being scolded by worried parents.
You can read about my first experience at the DMZ here.
Not too far away from here, a North Korean soldier shot a tourist at a resort across the border and led to said place’s closing. But still, there’s no sense of caution or anxiety while staring at the government’s enemies. This is yet another reason why traveling is worth the trouble. We have to get out and see it because this is certainly different from your TV and news feed. People all over the world proclaim this a dangerous place but other than the streams of barbed wire around us, it seems like a Korean Disneyland. Music, food, and ice cream override the suffering and chaos taking place across the border.
But it’s easy to ignore the Goseong DMZ’s decadence when staring at the mountains in the distance. Roads continue, eerily, into the North and make one think that they’ll someday resume serving traffic back and forth between the two neighbors. I can’t stop thinking about the waves and birds on the barbed wire beach below the observatory. To them, it’s just another stop on that long journey south or north depending on the season. There’s no fuss and it’s not the end of any line. There’s just enjoying the moment before moving on. Hopefully someday that’ll be the case for Koreans north and south.