FALLOUT: SOUVENIR SHOPPING AT THE DMZ

Tours, War, Shopping

The Demilitarized Zone, a 248 kilometre long and 4 kilometer wide stretch of land, has separated North and South Korea since 1953. It is officially a cease-fire line, surrounded by soldiers, minefields, barbed wired fences, and a tension level that fluctuates depending on North Korea’s sabre rattling.

There are only two villages in the DMZ - Daeseon in South Korea is a town of 230 people who must be home by 11 pm, whereas Gijeong in North Korea is a town of large, empty buildings that serves as a base for broadcasting propaganda messages through powerful speakers. (And for flying a 300 kg North Korean flag, which is significantly larger than the South Korean one.

The DMZ is considered the world’s most heavily armed border, but it is also overrun with stalls selling t-shirts, baseball caps, North Korean alcohol and shotglasses with the Demilitarized Zone logo. Every day, busloads of curious tourists come visit, and after some quick shopping, tourists can visit the DMZ theme park, complete with bumper cars, spinning cups, and a view to North Korea. Fodor’s travel guide calls the area “a strange mix of tension and serenity” and advises travellers to book tours and bring passports.

 

Image: Ryan Pikkel via Creative Commons

FALLOUT is a series of blog posts that explore the side-effects of war.