[KS] Questions about tourism in JSA, Panmunjom

don kirk kirkdon at yahoo.com
Fri Aug 9 19:05:06 EDT 2013

When you say you've toured the DMZ, you may mean only Panmunjom, the JSA. The tours shifted greatly as U.S. forces withdrew and the ROK forces took over almost everything except for a token U.S. force in a joint battalion that, last time I visited, was still commanded by a U.S. lieutenant colonel. You would have to get the dates of U.S. withdrawal to see the evolution of the tours. When U.S. had troops right up to the DMZ and staged daily combat-ready patrols, visitors were herded into a briefing room by a U.S. military briefer, generally an enlisted man (don't recall any women) who repeated everything he had had to memorize. A ROK official, not always military, now gives the briefings. Visitors could also get to a couple of U.S. army observation posts, one of which was named Oulette though I may have the spelling wrong. Can't recall the name of the other. These are now ROK army posts, generally but not always inaccessible. 
You probably visited a couple of other places, including that village inside the DMZ that they like to show off, and went up Dora-san, overlooking the DMZ with a view all the way to Kaesong. Tours to those places are a lot more open than they were 20-30 years ago. Also no doubt you went down into the third infiltration tunnel on a little train. In the old days, for some years after the tunnel was discovered, you had to walk -- a long walk down and a tiring walk back up. Dorasan, of course, is up from Dora Station, the last stop on the railroad that goes to Kaesong. The railroad into the North, and Dorasan station, were built in an era of rapprochement. Freight trains ran, empty, rd trip to the Kaesong Industrial Complex for a time, but they stopped a few years ago. Now nothing moves north out of Dora Station. Tourists took trains to Dora Station just to see it, and workers in the KIC often commuted there from Seoul -- no doubt will resume when the KIC
If you went to Chorwon, a major town south of the east central portion of the DMZ, you would have had to walk down and up an infiltration tunnel. There's also a good observation post near Chorwon, just below the DMZ, overlooking the scene of the battle of Bloody Ridge and other encounters, and another observation post at the eastern end, just below the DMZ.  Oh, and there's the shell of an old district bldg, blown up in the war, where briefers say NKoreans tortured SKoreas. These are often overlooked, are more accessible now than years ago.

My memory is hazy on a lot of this stuff -- I don't recall just when U.S. pulled back most of its troops from the area. All that's left now are elements of the Second Infantry Division at Camp Casey, between the DMZ and Seoul. U.S. and ROK stage war games not far south of the DMZ but not in the areas that visitors would normally go. 195
One detail: a few years ago you could see from Dora-san just south of the DMZ the hulk of the last locomotive that was blown off the tracks going south in the fall of 1950. They've now moved that locomotive to Imjin-gak, a little further south of the DMZ, on the southern side of the Imjin River crossing, as a highlight of a large tourist area that's been built up in recent years with memorials, rides for kids, picnic area etc. You undoubtedly walked around Imjin-gak -- standard tourist site. (Incidentally, the engineer on the locomotive escaped -- old story.)
Don Kirk

 From: Diane Boze <diane_boze at yahoo.com>
To: "koreanstudies at koreanstudies.com" <koreanstudies at koreanstudies.com> 
Sent: Saturday, August 10, 2013 3:29 AM
Subject: [KS] Questions about tourism in JSA, Panmunjom

I apologize in advance for this lengthy posting, but I
hope by explaining my dilemma, someone may be able to help me or possibly point me to
someone who can help!

I am
interested in learning more about one of the most
memorable aspects of my summer fellowship trip to South Korea:  my tour of
the DMZ.  I believe the current events in Korea make information about
this area especially relevant.

When I began my research, I quickly learned how
difficult it was to find any information on the questions I would like to
explore.  I realize in part this is because I unfortunately do not read or
speak any Korean (I apologize).  Also, touring the DMZ is unusual in that
it involves Korean, U.S., and U.N. parties, and the boundaries of who is
responsible for what is not always clear (at least to me).  I am also
limited to the Internet and Interlibrary Loan sources. 

 Nevertheless, I still find baffling the lack
of available information on the questions I have.  

I would like to find out at much as possible
about the history and development of the tours to the Korean Joint Security
Area, especially Panmunjom, often (as in my case) led by UNCSB-JSA

 For example, 
    * I am quite interested in tracing the DEVELOPMENT of "security tourism," especially in regards to the Panmunjom tour.  I know there were already civilian visitors to Panmunjom in the 1950s (for example, I have found some news references to Rear Admiral Ira H. Nunn, who began encouraging women, the Rotary Club, etc., to come to watch meetings to help spread “positive propaganda”), but am finding it difficult to discover exactly when, how, and why the U.N. troops became so involved in leading tours, especially to civilians.  By 1959 women and other civilians were being bussed into Panm. to look through the windows during negotiations.  To me, the combination of serious negotiations and tourists is very incongruous.  I want to explore its development. 
I cannot find hardly any info. on these negotiations over
the years at the JSA.  It appears many of the meetings were chiefly to
register complaints of each side; I'm curious whether these were the only types
of meetings the tourists could witness or attend, of if, once the meetings
became open to the public, more serious negotiations were also opened to the
public to some degree.  Some press reports lead me to believe that at some
period tourists were allowed not just at windows but within the conference
room.  That occurs now, when the rooms are empty, but I would like to know
more of the tourists actually listening to some meetings.  It appears that
early on both tourists from the N&S could stand together at the windows,
but at some time, I think it was coordinated so the tours of N or S tourists
happened at different times.  Was there official agreements btw the govts
concerning this?  
I do not believe that currently, the conference rooms at the
JSA are used much except for tours. I'm interested in what years this
changed.  I am also interested in other ways the treatment of the tourists
evolved -- when they had to sign a waver recognizing the danger, whether the
tours were always guided by UN officers and how in the world that became
typical,  when the schedule for tours became so regulated and how many
were typically given a day (and how this changed over the yrs).  Are there any records of the "talking
points" for tour guides, the goals and motivations of the tourist visits, and
how they've changed over the years? 
Has any agency kept records or archives that would reflect
how the tours have changed over the decades?  Unfortunately, again, I would need things in English.  But if there
are records in Korean, I would be interested in knowing about them, what they
cover, etc., even if I can't actually utilize them.  I am especially interested in the buildup of
the JSA tour to what it has been in the past few years, when changes were made
in the tours, who instigated the changes, and whether any (accessible)
explanations for the changes has been recorded.  
I realize that some aspects, such as visiting the infiltration
tunnels, have been added with changing circumstances.   But I am
interested in other causes for changes, including changes within the policies
of the Republic of Korea’s government and how these changes were requested and
    * How did the interaction between the U.S. military, the ROK military, the U.N., the USO, the Korean National Tourism Organization, etc., develop over the decades in terms of the tours?  
example, when something like the new welcome center in the JSA was built, was
this a South Korean project?  Collaboration between groups?  

Of special interest of mine (as an
Art Historian) is the visual presentation.  One of the questions I
wish I’d asked even as we were leaving the site was why the Dora Observatory
was painted in camouflage, when it was obvious everyone (including in the
North) knew exactly where it was.  Who is responsible for such decisions,
as of the decorative or aesthetics of the site?  Was that a leftover from
a period in which it was  meant to be camouflaged? or an addition
to “set the mood” for the tours?  Similarly, who was responsible for some
of the sculptures (such as brightly painted letters spelling DMZ or brightly
painted, rather rotund sculptures of security police?  Are the artists/designers recognized in any

My personal interest was aroused
because I found the DMZ tour fascinating, yet full of odd contradictions. 
For example, the DMZ has been called one of the most dangerous, and most highly
armed, borders of the world, yet it is also one of South Korea’s most popular
tourist destinations (and North Korea is also using it as a tourist
attraction).  Throughout the years, most articles in the popular press reflect
such contradictions, with headlines such as ““DMZ Tour Combines Live Mines,
Souvenirs,” (1998); “DMZ Tour is a Surreal Experience,” (2006); “Korea
DMZ:  Korean War Zone or Tourist Trap?” (2012); “Military Might Meets
Tourist Kitsch at DMZ” (2013).  These articles generally reflect my
sentiments:  a genuine sense of danger and menace, with an “amusement
park” presentation.  My interest is in understanding how such a hazardous
location became such a tourist attraction, going back as close to the Armistice
as possible.

Thanks, Diane
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