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Wordtravels

Korean DMZ

For those with even a passing interest in historical affairs, the Korean Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) - a 4km-wide strip of land that divides the Korean peninsula in two - is an absolute must-see. The DMZ was established in 1953, at the end of the Korean War, and remains not only the most heavily-armed and guarded territory on the planet, but also the last surviving relic of the Cold War. Day-trips, which include guided tours of North Korean infiltration tunnels and the Joint Security Area (Panmunjeon), the site of negotiations between the warring nations, cost around USD 40 and leave from downtown Seoul. Upon entry into the DMZ, visitors are required to put their signature on an indemnity form, acknowledging that they are entering a "hostile area", where they face "the possibility of injury or death as a direct result of enemy action" - this, however, is all part of the quiddity of the experience, and should be appreciated as such. Another interesting aspect of the DMZ is that - due to the total absence of development in the area for nearly 60 years - it has become the site of what must be the world's most unlikely wildlife sanctuary. An area of serene and unspoiled beauty, it is (putatively) home to several rare and endangered species, such as Asiatic black bears, Amur leopards and Korean tigers. There are also plenty of hotels and hostels in the area, should one desire to spend their entire weekend 'on the 38th parallel' - enjoying the pristine natural surroundings, soaking up the unique atmosphere, and stealing otherwise-impossible glimpses into the most mysterious country on earth.

Website: www.visitkorea.or.kr/ena/SI/SI_EN_3_4_1.jsp

Transport: Since tours of the DMZ are strictly by reservation only, visitors will need to engage the services of a tour company to visit the site. The leading DMZ tour operators are: the USO (02-795-3028), the Korean Travel Bureau (02-778-0150), Chung Ang Express (02-2266-3350), and the International Cultural Service Club (02-399-2700)

Opening times: Tour times vary

Admission: Tour costs are as follows: USD 42 (USO); KRW 77,000 (Korean Travel Bureau and Chung Ang Express); KRW 78,000 (International Cultural Service Club)