DPRK NORTH KOREA – Spying at the Southern neighbours and the old Koryo dynasty

North Korea is one of the most isolated countries in the world and I had the opportunity to visit it early October 2014. Its time to write more about this trip after my initial post about my arrival (read here). From Pyongyang I did a two-day trip to Kaesong area to visit the DMZ and the remains from the old Koryo dynasty. It is about a two-hour drive over an almost empty highway from Pyongyang to Kaesong city.

Spying at their southern neighbours at the DMZ from North Korea

First stop is the DMZ and JSA. The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is the land between North and South Korea which runs from the east coast to the west coast. Approximate 250 kilometers long and about 4 kilometers wide. It runs approximate along the 38th parallel north. This line divided the peninsula in half and was created as the border between the two countries by the Russians (North) and Americans (South). In the middle of the DMZ is the military demarcation line (MDL). There are living farmers inside the DMZ on the northern side to utilize the land for food production. In the DMZ you will find the Joint Security Area (JSA) where all negotiations take place. There are various buildings and guard posts and you can actually enter the building where the border runs through. You can step from North to South Korea and back within seconds in this building.

The military persons that show you around are very friendly and eager to explain. They are interested in your opinion and have no problem to get on the photo with you. Further you are allowed to make a lot of photo’s and you have all the time you need to check out what is happening on the Southern side.

At the “concrete wall lookout post” you will get some binoculars to spy on the South Koreans. How cool is that? You will learn that at the northern side there are no mines left and on the southern side there are. Further you can see the concrete wall which runs from east to west over the full length and is over 10 meters high and several meters thick. You can look at the lookout posts and the military camps at the southern side. When you are there you really get aware that the country is split in two.

Historic Monuments and Sites in Kaesong

Historic Monuments and Sites in Kaesong are a total of 12 objects. Five sections of the city walls, Manwoldae Palace and Chomsongdae, Namdae Gate,  Koryo Songgyungwan, Sungyang Sowon, Sonjuk Bridge and Phyochung Monuments,  Mausoleum of King Wang Kon with associated Seven Tombs Cluster and Myongrung Tombs Cluster, Mausoleum of King Kongmin. These sites are from the Koryo dynasty era which runs from 918 to the year 1392. During the Koryo dynasty Confucianism started to be more important than Buddhism. The city has a geomantic layout with the mountain tops around it as markers.

In Kaesong city you will visit the statue of Kim Il-sung where you will make a bow. Kaesong is a light industry city and has also a joint-venture part with South Korea. Here the South delivers mainly the technology and the North the workers.

The problem with the sights from the Koryo dynasty is that they are, in my opinion, too much restored. One of the tombs is even enlarged to double size as the great leader wanted this as the king deserved this. I recommend to do a two-day trip to Kaesong city over a one day trip which will not allow you to see all. The hotel in Kaesong city was very basic but a great experience (read here). I learned a lot more about the history of country in this unique experience.


Background information on this trip

Beside the above this trip might have been to more places. In the table below the full facts & statistics about this trip with links to related posts.

Dates of travel 2014.09.30 – 2014.10.12
Itinerary Overnight arrival to China with a relax day. Day 2 visited Pekingman site; Day 3 Mint Tombs; Day 4 – 11 to North Korea; Day 12 Back in Beijing with on Day 13 a flight back to Amsterdam.
Related posts CHINA – Going back to Chinese roots at Pekingman site & Ming tombs during Chinese National Day
DPR NORTH KOREA – To bow or not to bow; Pyongyang explored [part 1]
DPR NORTH KOREA – Spying on the Southern neighbours and the old Koryo dynasty [subscribe to the newsletter to know when this goes live!]
DPR NORTH KOREA – Spa, hot springs and other waterworks in Nampo [subscribe to the newsletter to know when this goes live!]
DPR NORTH KOREA – National day in the DPR Korea – happy faces! [subscribe to the newsletter to know when this goes live!]
Hotel Reviews Quarter 4 – 2014
Facts & Statistics Visited a new country and capital: North Korea / Pyongyang. Four new UNESCO sites visited. First time flew a Tupolev 204 airplane and first time flew with Air Koryo. Gathered 25.000 bonus points in IHG program by changing hotels daily. Four new UNESCO sites visited: DPR Korea Koguryo Tombs (Kaesong Area) & Historic Monuments and Sites in Kaesong (Kaesong)
China Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian (1h from Beijing) & Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1h from Beijing, Ming Tombs location)
Tour Operator, Hotels and Airlines used China part and flight: KLM direct flight to Beijing (in Business 😉 and stayed at various IHG hotels to collect additional bonus points. DPR Korea part: arranged through Your Planet Travel, based in the Netherlands but they will arrange tours for everyone. A very good tour operator with direct personal contact and everything arranged in detail.
GPS Map for your reference