Panmunjeom
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Crossing the 38th Parallel: A Day at the DMZ
Also known as the 38th Parallel, the DMZ—which has separated North and South Korea for over 60 years—is the most heavily guarded border in the world. So it’s surprising that guided tours are actually available. One of the best options is with the USO (United Service Organization) where tours go something like this: an hour's drive to the border, a video presentation about the history of the DMZ, then an actual visit into Panmunjom, the city that straddles the border itself. At one point in the tour, you cross into the North, where heavily armed guards stare austerely through binoculars at groups of gawking tourists. It’s difficult to imagine what life is like in the Hermit Kingdom as you stare over the border at the Propaganda Village, where it is said North Koreans are bussed in daily to make the village look real. Next you'll explore the tunnels used by North Korea to invade the South during the Korean War. This tour may be too unnerving for some, but others will find the peek into one of the world’s most reclusive nations fascinating. Tip: Bring snacks. The tour includes a lunch of traditional Korean fare, but the tour starts early and I was hungry way before lunchtime rolled around.
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