The Best DMZ Tour In South Korea | A Full Guide To The DMZ
The DMZ is a very popular destination for travellers coming to South Korea. The most known DMZ sights are in Paju, but the DMZ has much more to offer as it is 250 kilometers long and runs all the way through Incheon, Gyeonggi-do and Gangwon-do. This article is a full guide to the DMZ and covers what to see, the best DMZ tour in Korea and much more.
What Is The DMZ?
The DMZ or Demilitarized Zone acts like a buffer weapon-free zone between South and North Korea. It is 250 kilometres long and averagely 4 kilometres wide. The DMZ roughly divides the Korean peninsula in half.
This DMZ zone was established in 1953, just after the Korean war, and has protected both countries for more than 60 years. As the area has almost not been touched for such a long time, it is a heaven for wildlife.
Within the DMZ, there is one meeting point, where North and South Korean leaders can meet, namely the JSA or Joint Security Area.
DMZ Places To Visit In Gangwon-do
The DMZ is approximately 250 kilometers long and runs through both Gyeonggi-do Province and Gangwon-do Province. Even though Paju (located in Gyeonggi-do) has some of the most popular DMZ sights, there are loads of really interesting places to visit in Gangwon-do as well. Listed below are the most interesting places to visit, grouped by city or region. To visit most of these places, you’ll need to go by car or public transport, as there are almost no tours running to this area. As many places mentioned below are located in the security area, reservations are required, so make sure to check their official website before visiting.
Cheorwon county lies just on the border of Gyeonggi-do Province and North Korea. The region has changed hands several times during the Korean war. Many battles took place in Cheorwon including the Battle of White Horse and the Battle of Triangle Hill. Click here for more info on all the touristic attractions in Cheorwon.
1.1 Labor Party Headquarters
This building was constructed in 1946 by forced labourers. It is a soviet style building that was used before the Korean war by the North Korean Labour Party until the war broke out.
It was well known that people who entered the building never left alive as it was often used for torturing and killing people. At the back of the building bullet holes can be seen in the walls.
Address: 265, Geumgangsan-ro, Cheorwon-gun, Gangwon-do
1.2 Memorial Tower of the Baeckma Goji Battle
Baekma Goji hill or White Horse Hill had changed hands no less than 24 time during 10 days of battles (starting on October 6, 1952), one of the bloodiest battles of the Korean war. During that time, this hill smelled of dead bodies and had endured more than 300 000 bombings. As a result of this battle, the communists lost 14 000 people and the UN Forces had around 3400 casualties. Due to this battle, the hill completely lost its shape and looked like a white horse laying down, therefor it was call the White Horse Hill.
Now, a huge memorial monument lies on this hill to remember all the soldiers that have fallen during the war.
Address: 72, Daema 1-gil, Cheorwon-gun, Gangwon-do
1.3 Dopiansa Temple
Originally constructed in 865 AD, this temple currently houses two National Treasures. Namely National Treasure Nr. 63 (Iron Sedentary Image Of Vairocana) and Nr. 223 (Treasure Three Story Stona Pagoda). Since construction, the temple has been destroyed twice, the first time by fire and the second time during the Korean War. In 1957, the 15th Division of the Korean Army reconstructed the temple and managed it until it was given back to a civil institute.
Address: 450 Gwanu-ri, Dongsong-eup, Cheorwon-gun, Gangwon-do
Hwacheon is most famous for the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Fishing Festival that runs every year in January. Apart from this amazing festival, Hwacheon has much more to offer, including DMZ sites, the tomato festival and stunning nature. Click here for more info about Hwacheon.
2.1 Pyeonghwaui Peace Dam
This dam was constructed in 1986 as a prevention dam against a potential flooding attack from North Korea. In 2002 the height of the dam was raised to 700 meters above sea level, making this the 2nd longest dam in the country.
Now, this dam is a major tourist destination, together with site surrounding this dam (Water Culture Center, Peace Bell Park, Bimok Park, Bisugumi Valley and Suhari Fishing Site).
2.2 World Peace Bell Park
The World Peace Bell Park lies just next to the Peace Dam and was created just after the dam was finished to pass along a message of hope and peace. The bell was made with scrap iron like bullets and bomb shells, sent from all over the world. Over 10 000 cartridges were collected from countries that had gone through similar war times as South Korea, and were used to create this massive bell. Smaller bells and messages from Nobel Peace Winners are displayed in the park as well.
Address: 2918 Dongchon-ri Hwacheon-eup Hwacheon-gun Gangwon-do
Yanggu County was part of the front line of the Korean War and several battles took place in this area, including the Bloody Ridge, Heartbreak Ridge and Hill 1179. Yanggu lies in the geographical centre of the Korean peninsula. Click here to find more information about Yanggu.
3.1 The 4th Infiltration Tunnel
This 4th infiltration tunnel was only discovered on March 3rd, 1990 and lies about 1200 meters from the demilitarisation zone of South Korea. The tunnel is accessible to the public and this is one of the only infiltration tunnels in Korea that tourists can visit. Apart from the tunnel, you’ll see lots of military equipment and a statue of a military hunt dog. This statue remembers the military investigation dog that died during the exploration of this 4th infiltration tunnel. His death, saved a life of a squad who would otherwise have stepped on a land mine.
Address: 233-4, Ihyeon-ri, Haean-myeon, Yanggu-gun, Gangwon-do
3.2 Eco-Botanical Garden
The DMZ is home to a variety of wildlife and plants that can hardly be found anywhere else, including more than 400 species of rare plants. Eco-Botanical Garden at the foot of Daeamsan Mountain in Yanggu is an education centre where visitors can learn about the many rare animals and plants that live in the DMZ. The park is divided into 3 sections, a learning centre, a forest playground and a forest clean ground.
Address: 266-60, Punch bowl-ro, Dong-myeon, Yanggu-gun, Gangwon-do
3.3 Park Soo Keun Museum
Park Soo Keun Museum in Yanggu is quite different from any other museum in Korea. The architecture is very modern and nothing like other buildings in Korea. Park Soo Keun was a famous Korean painter and he grew up in the Yanggu County area during the Japanese Occupation period.
His paintings often portray every day scenes and show poor common people. He is considered as one of the most quintessential Korean painters of the 20th century. The museum houses a wide collection of paintings including his oil paintings, watercolours, drawings, prints, illustrations and personal articles.
Address: 265-15 Parksookeun-ro, Yanggu-eup, Yanggu-gun, Gangwon Province
Goseong is a small county and is the Northernmost point of South Korea. During the Korean War, this county has changed hands many times and used to belong to North Korea before the Korean war. Click here for more info about Goseong.
Tours from Seoul to this area are running on a daily basis. Click here to find more info about the tours.
4.1 Unification Observatory
The observation deck lies 70 meters above sea level and offers an amazing view of Haegeumgang River and Geumgangsan Mountain (North Korea). The Unification Observatory was constructed in 1983 and is the closest viewing point to Geumgangsan Mountain in North Korea, which is about 16 kilometres away. Like many places mentioned in this article, you need to pass through security before being allowed to enter the observatory.
Address: 188, Machajin-ri, Hyeonnae-myeon, Goseong-gun, Gangwon-do
4.2 Villa of Kim Il-Sung
Kim Il-Sung, the former leader of North Korea, is the one who started the Korean war in 1950 in which more than a million soldiers and people died.
Before the Korean War and during the Japanese Occupation, Kim Il-Sung used to visit his summer holiday house in Goseong on a regular basis. The villa was originally constructed for foreign missionaries in Joseon.
Address: 300-1, Hwajinpo-gil, Goseong-gun, Gangwon-do
4.3 Villa of Rhee Syngman
The villa of Rhee Syngman, the first president of South Korea, lies just down the road from the Villa of the former leader of South Korea. This villa was constructed in 1954 but was not used anymore after 1961. The Korean army repaired the villa in 1997 and it was turned into an exhibition hall in 1999.
Next to the villa, lies a small museum which explains the history of the area and about the life of the first president of South Korea.
Address: 33, Iseungmanbyeoljang-gil, Goseong-gun, Gangwon-do
Frequently Asked Questions
The DMZ, or the Demilitarized Zone, is a 4-kilometer wide strip of land that separates North and South Korea. It was established in 1953 after the Korean War as a buffer zone between the two countries. The DMZ is significant because it is one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world, and tensions between North and South Korea remain high. Visiting the DMZ offers a unique opportunity to witness the geopolitical divide and learn about the history and current state of the Korean Peninsula.
Yes, anyone can visit the DMZ, but you must book a tour in advance through an authorized tour operator. The tour usually includes a visit to the Joint Security Area (JSA), where you can step into North Korean territory and observe North Korean soldiers. The tour also includes visits to various other sites within the DMZ, such as the Third Tunnel, Dora Observatory, and Imjingak Park. It’s important to note that visitors must follow strict dress codes and behavior guidelines, and photography is restricted in some areas. To book a tour, you can visit the official website of the Korea Tourism Organization or contact a reputable tour operator.
Visiting the DMZ is generally safe, but it’s important to follow the instructions and guidelines given by the tour guide and military personnel. The DMZ is a heavily guarded area, and visitors must be accompanied by an authorized guide at all times. The area is also prone to military exercises and sudden escalations of tension, so visitors should stay informed and be prepared for unexpected changes. However, the South Korean government and military take great measures to ensure visitors’ safety, and millions of tourists have visited the DMZ without incident.