JSA Tour A-Course
History of the Division of the Korean Peninsula
Japan annexed Korea (Japan occupied Korea for 35 years)
15 August 1945, The Joy of Liberation
After Korea was annexed by Japan in 1910, for the nest 35 years the Korean people were robbed of their national heritage the Japanese. However, because of a national pride based on 5000 years of history and culture, the Koreans never stopped fighting for their independence. After the surrender of the Japanese on 15 August 1945 at the end of World War Ⅱ, the Korean people achieved their independence and escaped the yoke of Japanese oppression.
However, two philosophies, two governments are born
The exhilaration of liberation only lasted a short time. Under agreements reached at the end of World war Ⅱ, the country was divided at the 38th Parallel. United States occupied the South and the Soviet Union occupied the North. From that time on, the trials began for the new governments.The first Korean democratic government, the Republic of Korea, was established in South Korea on 15 August 1948. In contrast, the Communist Party in North Korea, led by Kim Il-Sung, formed the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea on 9 September 1948.
Political differences between rhe two nations created tension between South and North as Koreans stood toe-to-toe against each other across the 38th Parallel.
25 June 1950, The Tragic Korean Civil War Begins
The Korean War started at around 4 o’clock in the morning on 25 June 1950 with the surprise attack of Kim Il-Sung North Korean forces. The attack was supported by two big communist powers, the Soviet Union and China. Kim Il-Sung was looking for the right time to attack and unify the country. After the U.S. completely removed their forces from Korea in 1948 and eded Korea and Taiwan from it’s Far-Eastern Defense Line in January 1950, Kim Il-Sung decided to make his move.
It only took three days for the North to occupy Seoul. With their superior preparations and heavy weapons, such as tanks, it only took a month for the communists to gain control of the entire country minus a small area in the Southeast near Pusan that became known as the “Pusan Perimeter”.
The UN acted swiftly to protect freedom and democracy in Korea. Ina series of three special Security Council meetings, they passed resolutions that condemned the violent acts of North Korea and authorized the us of force by UN member nations to repel the communist aggressors. The UN forces pushed the North Koreans back north through the 38th Parallel by October 1950. However, the tragic war continued for over three years.
27 July 1953, The Armistice Agreement
After three years of fighting, an Armistice Agreement was finally signed on 27 July, 1953, by General Mark Clark, on behalf of all UNC forces on the one hand Kim Il-Sung, Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army and marshall Peng De Huai, Commander of the Chinese People’s Volunteers on the other hand. The Armistice Agreement created a Military Demarcation Line(MDL), a four-kilometer wide Demilitarized Zone(DMZ) 2 kilometers on each side of the MDL, and a Joint Security Area(JSA). Korea, however, was still divided and bore the scars of war.
The tragedy named ‘War’
War is the most disastrous event that can occur in a nation. However, a civil war has an even more devastating effect on the nation. On 27 July 1953, the fighting in the tragic Korean War finally stopped as the armistice was signed. The war claimed the lives of more than 480,000 soldiers from the ROK and UNC as well as those of 1.5 to 2 million communist soldiers from North Korea and China. More importantly, it claimed the lives of more than 4.5 million civilians. The number of sacrificed civilians was about 15% of Korea’s existing combined population. Besides the loss of lives, the war orphaned about 3.7 million children and over 10 million families became permanently separated. This tragedy named war cannot be described in words.
Panmunjom is located inside the Demilitarized Zone ( DMZ ). and it is the most forward location in the DMZ that can be visited by civilians.
The administrative address is Kyunggi-do- Paju-si Jinseo-myun Neolum-li (for the South Korean portion) and Kaesong-jikhalsi Panmun-goon panmunjom-ri (for the North Korean side).
Although Panmunjom is the common name of the area, the official name of the negotiating site is the Joint Security Area (J.S.A).
Panmunjom is located in the western portion of the 155-mile long DMZ on the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) and it demonstrates the great sorrow of the division of country.
Panmunjom is located 62 kilometers northwest of Seoul, the capital of South Korea and 215 kilometers south of Pyongyang ,the capital of North Korea, 10 kilometers from Kaesong.
The History of Panmunjom
The name Panmunjom can be traced back to the time of the original armitstice negotiations between the UNC and the Communist forces.
The actual site of the “truce lent” negotiations is located about 1 kilometer north of the JSA.
On that location today is a North Korean army museum, which can be observed from the UNC Guard Post 3 in the JSA.
The museum was originally built for the signing of the Korea Armistice Agrement that occurred on 27 July 1953.
Before in the Armistice negotiations, there were only four thatch-roofed huts, including an inn in the Panmunjom area.
The inn was a resting stop for people who traveled between Seoul and Sinuiju. Previously, the name of this town was “ Neolmun-li”, which means “ wooden gate” in the pure Korean language.
The story behind that name is very interesting. A long time ago, the King of Korea visited this and wanted to cross this river, but there was no bridge.
Thus these good people in town removed their wooden house gates and made a bridge that enabled the King to continue on his way. It was only when the Armistice Negotiations moved to this location from Kaesung that the place was called “ Panmunjom”.
This was done out of courtesy for the representative from the Communist Chinese Army.
Three Chinese characters were written on the signboard of the inn “ Pan” means wood board in Sino-Korean; “ Mun ” means gate or door and “Jom” means store, was added to denote the only inn in the area.
On 27 July 1953, the Armistice Agreement was finally signed, after 2 years and 18 days and 1,076 arduous meetings between the UNC and the Communist (North Korean and Chinese) representatives.
In accordance with the Armistice Agreement a “ Joint Security Area” was built at Panmunjom that was officially under the Joint control of the UNC and North Korean militaries and the only area, which is out of the district boundaries of North and South.
Tour Package that includes the Panmunjom tour
A great opportunity to see a North Korean Soldier up and close!
This 3rd observatory point is the closest, most exciting exploration experience allowing you to see the North Korean town.
We will visit the actual location where the horrible incident of the “Axe Murder” took place.
Points of view of Panmunjom
Lunch Lunch at the Korean restaurant (Bullgogi) / Vegetarian guest comes out bibimbap
Imjingak is the most representative place that symbolizes Koreans’ desire to reunify two Koreas. It is a small theme park with rides at one side and barbed wire fences at the other side, making it a bizarre place. The park is a place to pray for the reunification of Korea. There are two historical things in the park site. One of them is a bridge called Freedom Bridge. It is an eighty three meter long wooden bridge used by 13,000 POWs who came down to South Korea seeking freedom. Another one is an original steam locomotive smokestack from the Korean War. The train was used by the South Army before being destroyed in 1950. It was deserted for 55 years with 1,020 bullet marks.
The Unification Bridge
The bridge is more like a symbolic bridge built back in 1998, wishing unification between two Koreas. It was built by Hyundai Business Group of South Korea. Underneath the bridge you can see a river which is called Imjingang, coming down from North Korea. The bridge also has a nickname which is the “Cow Bridge”. The founder of Hyundai whose name was Jung Juyoung crossed this bridge and went to North Korea back in 1998 with precisely 1,001 cows. Since then, we have been calling it the cow bridge. Of course all the cows he took with him were part of humanitarian donations for North Korean people.
Briefing at Camp Bonifas and tour of JSA
Republic of Korea and United States Forces Korea soldiers conduct the United Nations Command DMZ Orientation Program tours of the JSA and surrounding areas.Camp Bonifas is the command post of the United Nions Forces inside of Panmoonjeom.At this location, solders who are in charge, boards the bus and examines your attire and identification once more.At the JSA national security center inside of the Camp Bonifas, they give a briefing about the Panmoonjeom visitation.There is a golf course called Par 3 One Hall Gold Course made of artificial turf inside of the Camp Bonifas. It is called ‘the most dangerous golf course’ because surrounded around the three sides of the club are minefields.
Armistice Commission Conference Room
The armistice agreement of 1953 provided the establishment of the Military Armistice Commission (MAC), an agency to supervise implementation of the truce terms. A conference row was built to hold meetings of MAC representatives from the United Nations Command (UNC) and the North Korean People's Army (KPA).The conference row consists of seven buildings set squarely on the Military Demarcation Line (MDL). The line is marked on the ground between the buildings on conference row by several 17”×5” concrete slabs. The three blue buildings are managed by UNC, and four gray buildings, by KPA. The central blue building is the MAC Conference Room, where talks take place between both sides. The MAC room has a line, which bisects the center of a conference table in the middle of the room. First, you will stand right in front of the conference row to take photos of North Korean soldiers, who are posted in front of their visitor center. Then, you will be escorted into the MAC Conference Room, where you can cross the division line even though you are prohibited from opening the door toward north direction.
Bridge of no Retum
Located in the joint Security Area(JSA), the so called “Bridge of No Return” crosses the Military Demarcation Line(MDL) between North Korea and South Korea.
It was used for prisoner exchanges at the end of the Korean War in 1953. North Korea continued to use it until the Axe Murder Incident in 1976 in which two United States Army officers were killed. The use of the bridge was discontinued after the incident. This location has also been at the center of controversy and conflict between the two countries who are technically still at war.
JSA TOUR : Highlights
JSA is the only portion of the DMZ, where South and North Korean soldiers stand face-to-face. You can feel the heightened tension of the most hostile area in the world.
You will eventually pass by the focal point of the most brutal incident of JSA, which is called the “Axe Murder Incident” of 1976.
Two officers of US army were axed to death under a huge popular tree.
The tree had to be pruned because it was in between two UNC guard posts, blocking the line of view between the two points.
The officers were carrying shot guns on their waist belts, but they did not use them to be brutally murdered with the axes for the tree trimming job.
This is only one episode of the sixty year old tragedy of JSA.
How do you go to JSA?
Only by joining a tour package run by a few tour agencies registered with the UNC!
Since JSA is so hostile and closely controlled by the belligerents, it is not ready at everyone's convenience.
Some nationalities are restricted by UNC regulations. The information of all visitors including their nationalities and passport numbers must be gathered and checked at least three days before the actual tour date.
Only after the roster of visitors is approved by UNC, can you get on the bus leaving from Seoul.
Visit JSA and face in person the longest and bitter confrontation of the world history, still going on in the conference theater.
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