The Residue of a War Lies in Quiet Wait for Visitors to Kangwon

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The Residue of a War Lies in Quiet Wait for Visitors to Kangwon

It's been a year since the historic summit talk held between North and South Korea, and people's excitement over the expectations of continued productive communication with the North has waned. However, a good number of those people and others maintain high hopes for being reunited with their loved ones in the North.

Though reunification may not be just around the corner, families can still enjoy views of North Korea from afar. June perhaps is the most symbolic month in which to visit some of these places, since this is the month for honoring those who died during the Korean War.

Haean-myeon in Yang-gu county, Kangwon province, is an area known as the Punch Bowl. Foreign correspondents during the Korean War coined this name due to the area's concave center, which resembles a bowl. Encircling the Punch Bowl are mountains more than 1,000 meters high. These mountains are often surrounded by heavy fog in the summer.

During the war, North Korean troops laid land mines along the range of mountains connecting Mount Dae-am, Mount Dosol and Mount Dae-u, and set up an encampment in the area. In 1951, after 17 days of heavy fighting, a South Korean marine regiment succeeded in reclaiming Mount Dosol.

Also in Haean-myeon sits the Fourth Tunnel, which was discovered in 1990. In 1983, a North Korean defector informed authorities that North Koreans were digging a tunnel to the South.

Based on the defector's information, the South spent years searching for the tunnel and finally found the first signs of it in 1989. After excavating the suspected area for about two months, the South succeeded in penetrating the tunnel.

Between the 1970s and 1990s, four tunnels that had been excavated by the North Koreans were found in South Korea. Of those, the Fourth Tunnel is the only one that offers a trolley service for visitors to tour the inside. The trolley to the Fourth Tunnel runs without an operator on board and goes about 100 meters below the surface. Due to the darkness of the tunnel it is difficult to see much. Riding the trolley, you may even feel a bit scared because of the pitch blackness on the way down.

At the entrance to the tunnel stand exhibits of military equipment and a memorial monument. Inside the education hall of the Fourth Tunnel, a 3-D projector shows North Korean tourist sites.

Up at the Ulji Observatory Tower, located only 700 meters from a North Korean guard, the view of the DMZ is rather dreary and quiet. The observatory also offers views of North Korean farmlands, and a few peaks the Kumgang mountains, including Mount Birobong.

No permission is now needed for visitors to view both the tunnel and the observatory at the North Hall of the Ministry of Unification.

The sites are closed on Tuesday and admission prices to each site are 1,000 won (about 80 cents) for adults and 500 won for children. Each location offers a 30 percent discount to groups of 30 people or more. For more information call the North Hall at 033-481-9021 (Korean service only).

From June 22-24, Yang-gu county will hold the Mount Dosol Battle Memorial Festival in memory of soldiers who died in the Korean War and to wish for the Korea's unification.

The festival will offer various cultural events such as concerts, art exhibitions and screenings of war movies. There will also be a fireworks show and several parades, including a candlelight parade on the opening day.

For more information about the festival contact the Web site of Yang-gu county at (Korean version only) or call at 033-481-2191 (Korean service only).

by Kim Sae-joon

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