#InterKoreanSummit: DMZ sees tourism boom

BARELY A MONTH after the inter-Korean summit, the positive effects can already be seen.

Not only has it spurred interest in other historical meets between world leaders and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, tourists too are taking more interest in the place where it all started: the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

For the uninitiated, the DMZ is a 250-kilometers long strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula that is heavily protected.

Established by the provisions of the Korean Armistice Agreement signed by North Korea, China, and the United Nations in 1953, it serves as a buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea.

In recent years, the border has become a bit of a tourist attraction as it hosts the small Joint Security Area (JSA) where negotiations between the two countries take place.

It is known as the place at which the 2018 inter-Korean summit led by South Korean President Moon Jae In and Kim Jong Un took place.

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Soon after the summit, the border tourism saw a boom, with tourists choosing to visit the tourist spots along the DMZ.

This is viewed as a positive outcome from the summit, as there have been doubts about the safety of the border in the past due to various incidents that caused military and civilian casualties.

For example, in November 2017, 24-year-old North Korean soldier Oh Chong Song made a dramatic dash across the border and defected to South Korea.

The incident saw his former North Korean comrades firing dozens of rounds at him, striking Oh Chong Song five times. He survived, but he wasn’t the first and won’t be the last.

North Korean soldiers filming at the DMZ’s Joint Security Area (JSA). Source: Shutterstock.

Stories of defecting soldiers and gunfights are thought to be reasons why tourists view the DMZ as unsafe to visit.

Another contributing factor is the DMZ is not exactly a breeze to access and the JSA is not easy to visit due to the heavy military presence.

Tourists need to be on an approved, guided tour by any one of these tour companies and on select dates.

And while on tour, there are strict guidelines to follow right down to the dress code and picture-taking etiquette.

Hello from the other side. A rare look at the JSA from the side of North Korea’s Kaesong. Source: Shutterstock.

As aforementioned, following the inter-Korean summit, the number of visitors to tourist spots near the border has seen a surprisingly healthy increase.

According to Travel and Tour World, the number has gone up by 30 percent, from 1,200 to 2,300 visitors per day in the same period last year to 1,500 to 3,000 visitors per day.

South Korea’s government also attributed the rise in the number of tourists to the lifting of restrictions on package tours imposed by Chinese cities.

The destinations along the border include the DMZ tunnel, Imjingak park, the Freedom bridge, the North Korean infiltration tunnels, and Dorasan train station, just to name a few.

The inter-Korean summit brought on talks of complete denuclearization and signing a peace treaty to formally end the war. Is a reunification underway? Source: Shutterstock.

Other positive outcomes from the inter-Korean summit include South Korea’s switching off the propaganda-broadcasting loudspeakers from its border and North Korea realigning its time zone with Seoul.

If all goes well, US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un are also expected to meet on June 12, 2018.