Almost North Korea: Visiting The DMZ, Imjingak, and Peace Nuri Park
Since I hadn’t been to the DMZ since I was a student in 2012, I decided it was about time for a refresher course and a visit to the border of North Korea. Imjingak is accessible by public transportation, so I woke up early Friday morning and headed North!
To get there: Get on the Gyeongui Jungang line heading to Munsan. Try to get on the ‘Rapid’ (급행) to make the long trip a bit shorter :) Munsan is the last stop so you can’t miss it! When you get to Munsan, come out exit 1 and walk straight across the street. Continue down the road until you can make your first left. There is a bus stop just in front of you (there is a '“Bakery King” and “Pizza School” across the street from where you should be standing.
You’re going to take the bus number 58, but the problem is, there are multiple 58s. Yay!
You want the 58 heading for Imjingak (임진각). You can ask the driver if he stops there (just say “imjingak?”) or check the time table below. It’s not exact, but the bus usually comes within 5 minutes of the posted time.
When I finally reached Imjingak, the first thing I did was grab some coffee. I got up at 6 for this little adventure and the tour buses of noisy tourists waiting for me at the observatory were an unwelcomed sight to these un-caffeinated eyes.
FourB is a newly opened cafe that sits right at the fence that separates us from the DMZ (the demilitarized zone which is technically neither North nor South Korean territory) The owner was incredibly nice and ended up giving me and the other couple in the cafe tons of free drinks because he was testing some new beans. It’s air conditioned, there’s wifi, and it is much quieter than the visitor center in the Imjingak observatory.
Open every day 9am-6pm.
After checking out the observatory on the roof of the Imjingak visitor center, I walked over to the site of a few bunkers, the Freedom Bridge, and a steam engine that was destroyed during the war and preserved as a memory of the violence.
In order to visit the bunker you need ID and a ticket, but there is a lot of free information and things to see - including a place where you can send a postcard for free using the “Peace Mail” system.
Across the parking lot filled with tour buses is the Peace Nuri Park (평화누리공원). It is a large plot of land dedicated to multiple pieces of art all with the theme of peace, reunification, and the suffering of both Koreas. The sheer size of some of them was amazing, and when I went it happened to be filled with kindergarten school groups playing amongst the windmills so it was extra adorable.
The park was a lot smaller than I expected but considering how hot it was the day I went, I was happy to not have to walk as far as I thought I would.
There is also an amusement park with a carousel, bumper cars, and a few other little rides, but most of it was closed when I went (before noon on a weekday)
There’s a large area with lots of memorials for those involved in the Korean War with almost all of them having English translations so definitely check that out on your way to the bus. Here’s the time table for the bus back to Munsan Station. My bus arrived about 3 minutes after the posted time so again, these are just ~estimates~