NORTH KOREA – Kaesong day trip: Spying at the Southern neighbours & old Koryo dynasty

North Korea is one of the most isolated countries in the world and I had the opportunity to visit it twice. It’s time to write more about this trip after my initial post about my arrival (read here). From Pyongyang I did a Kaesong day trip to visit the Korean DMZ and the remains of the old Koryo dynasty. It is about a two-hour drive over an almost empty highway from Pyongyang to Kaesong city. In Kaesong everything is a bit more basic as in Pyongyang but visiting the DMZ and spying on South Korea was fun to do! The Koryo dynasty remains are not always on each North Korean itinerary but do ask to see them. I’ll share with you my experience in North Korea which I think is something you should experience yourself.

Kaesong day trip: The Korean DMZ and JSA

I had visited the old DMZ in Vietnam before and was very interested to see an active DMZ. A visit to the Korean DMZ was a must-do for me and I recommend for any first time visitor to North Korea.

A Kaesong day trip normally starts at the Korean DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) and the JSA (Joint Security Area). The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is the land between North Korea and South Korea which runs from the east coast to the west coast. It’s approximate 250 kilometers long and about 4 kilometers wide. It runs along the 38th parallel north. This line divides 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 Korean DMZ is the military demarcation line (MDL).

Farmers live inside the Korean 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 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 can make a lot of photos and you have all the time you need to check out what is happening on the Southern side before going to the next stop of the Kaesong day trip.

Korean DMZ: The Concrete Wall

Next stop of a DMZ day trip is the “concrete wall lookout post”. You will get binoculars to spy on the South Koreans on the other side of the Korean DMZ. 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, 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 unlike the old DMZ in Vietnam. There is nothing left I saw when I travelled 2 weeks in Vietnam.

Historic Monuments and Sites in Kaesong

If you’re on a Kaesong day trip you will now visit the statue of Kim Il-sung in Kaesong where you will make a bow and give flowers. Day trips then visit the Koryo Dynasty Palace but if you overnight in Kaesong you probably see a bit more of Kaesong first. Kaesong is a light industry city and has also a joint-venture area with South Korea. There the South delivers mainly the technology and the North the workers so that both countries benefit from that.

 

As I’m a huge UNESCO World Heritage fan I had a special request to see all 12 sites that are part of the Historic Monuments and Sites in Kaesong. 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 started in the early 10th century and lasted to the very late 14th century. During the Koryo dynasty Confucianism started to be more important than Buddhism. I was able to see most sites except some of the sections of the walls and not all the tombs.

The sights from the Koryo dynasty are very nicely restored but, in my opinion, maybe a bit too much. One of the tombs is even enlarged to double size as the great leader wanted this as the king deserved this.

If you want to see all those sites, 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. I learned a lot more about the history of country in this unique experience. Want to know what to do more in North Korea then make sure to check my North Korean itinerary for first timers.

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Did you visit North Korea and did you do a Kaesong day trip to the Korean DMZ too or do you have questions? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Love to hear from you!

Gallery Kaesong day trip & Korean DMZ

Check the gallery for more photos taken during this trip. If you like to use any photo for commercial, private or editorial use please contact first for permission and/or pricing.