East Asia, South Korea

DMZ Tour: A Sneak Peek Into North Korea

A trip to the DMZ (border of North Korea) is an experience not to miss whilst you are in Seoul. With this tour, you will be able to take a glimpse into life in North Korea and soak up the tragic history of how a nation became divided. Just ensure you book through a reputable company. Read on to find out which company NOT to book with and about the day’s events.

Preparing for the DMZ Trip

The day had arrived and myself and Jake were very excited about our trip to North Korea. Stupidly, the first time we were in Seoul we didn’t realise that to go into North Korea we could need to book the DMZ tour a few days in advance. So when we called a tour agency 2-days before we were due to leave for Japan, we were more than gutted to be told that it’s not possible for us to book on a tour at such short notice. As the tour was something we really wanted to do, we decided to head back to Seoul after going to Japan.

DMZ Tour Options

There are two types of tours; the Demilitarized Zone tour (DMZ) and the Demilitarized Zone Tour with Joint Security Area (JSA). The difference? Not much, other than that the JSA is where you actually step foot into North Korean territory and can see North Korean Soldiers. For us, we certainly thought the double pricing was worth it. After all, we may never get chance to step into North Korean again.

DMZ Costs

Costs can vary massively, depending on which company you choose to take your tour with. We chose to do our tour with Koridoor tours, MASSIVE MISTAKE, but will speak more on that later. At the time we took the tour the prices were as follows:

DMZ Tour: $42

DMZ with JSA Tour: $92

Tour Day

Departure and Tunnels

The day started with a gathering at Koridoor tour office for ID and clothing check (must be dressed well). After everyone had arrived and signed in, a coach and a guide took us to the third tunnel (DMZ zone). Here we could walk through the tunnel and learn the history of the war between South and North Korea. The tunnel its self is not much to write home about, but it’s worth checking out.

Reunification of North-South Korea

Lunch Time

After the third tunnel, we made a quick stop for bite to eat at a restaurant. Myself and Jake opted to munch on our sandwiches that we bought before the tour began. However, the restaurant has plenty of local Korean food to choose from (not included in the tour price).

After Lunch it was onto Dora Observatory

Here we could peek through the binoculars into a creepy fake North Korean Town. Yes FAKE. No-one actually lives there. We were told by our guide that the North Koreans had built this colorful town and play loud music every day to show South Koreans and visitors that they are prosperous and are doing well.  This was a pretty cool part of the tour and the guide provided us with some very interesting information.

Looking into North Korea

Next Stop was Dorasan Train Station

This part of the tour was an emotional part of the trip. We could really sense the desperation of South Korea to reunite with their Northern counterparts; so much so, a train station heading to Pyonyang has already been built and the train is sat waiting to go. Another interesting item at the train station, is the small piece of the Berlin Wall that has been donated to South Korea to show hopes of reunification.

Dorasan Train Station

Joint Security Area

Next up was the part of the day that everyone on the tour had waited for; the part where, technically, we would step foot into North Korea. As we approached the joint security area, our bus pulled over and an American solider got on to give us what supposed to be a briefing. Instead he told us that the border was now closed to tourists due to an incident that had happened earlier in the day. At this point we weren’t quite sure if this was a joke or not. But NOPE unluckily for us it was not a joke at all.

JSA replica

Disappointed Tourists

Instead of going to the joint security area, our guide opted to take us all to a nearby park. This was just to kill some time so we fulfilled the tour length. In all honesty though, I don’t think anyone wanted to do this as everyone was quite pissed off at this point. When we arrived back at Koridoor’s tour office, surprise surprise!… Everyone had left the office, so there was no one there to talk to about getting back a refund.

Extremely Disappointed Tourists

The next day, we went back to the office to speak to the manager about receiving a refund for the part of the tour we did not do. Unfortunately, the staff were rude and no longer wanted to know us. After asking where $50 per person had been spent and how it was justifiable for them to keep it, we got nowhere and left without a refund.

Conclusion

The first half the DMZ tour was great and we enjoyed learning the history of the war and the divide of a nation. However, if this tour is high a priority for you, avoid going with cheap skate companies like Koridoor. We completely understand that at such a high-tension border zone, incidents can occur; resulting in border closures at short notice. But to not receive a refund for this was totally gutting, particularly after later being told by other travelers that other companies were giving refunds. On top of that, the customer service after the tour was totally unacceptable and the manager refused to answer some of our questions. All in all though, the tour is a must do for anyone visiting Seoul.

Are you staying in Seoul for a few days? Check out our top 5 things to do in Seoul.

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11 thoughts on “DMZ Tour: A Sneak Peek Into North Korea

    1. Thanks for the comment, yes it was a very interesting trip and if you ever go to Seoul, it’s something you should definitely look into doing if you ate interested in the divide between North and South Korea.

  1. i’ve done dmz tour in vietnam, but i’m sure it would be a totally different experience doing it in korea with the north korea situation and all that. i’m so sorry that your tour ended up disappointed by the end of the day, but i could tell you had a great experience beforehand. 🙂

    anyway, i’ve also got north korea on my bucket list but i heard to join the tour there is quite expensive. i’m so obsessed to see what’s up with north korean that i am volunteering for asian games in jakarta next year just to see whether i could meet anyone from north korea. 😀

    btw, since you mentioned that to do this tour you must dress well, can you tell me what kind of outfit that is recommended or what to avoid if i want to join this tour one day? thank you! 🙂

    1. Yes it was very interesting and even without the JSA part of the tour, it is still totally worth doing.

      That’s so cool that you are going to an event in Jakarta, I hope you have the opportunity to speak to someone from North Korea. Apart from actually being there and emmersing yourself into another country, there is no better way to learn about culture and life in another country than to speak to someone who is from there first hand.

      As for the dress code, they require you to dress smart/ casual. For example, shoes and not flip-flops. No short shorts/ skirts and no strappy t-shirts and no tracksuits. A nice pair of jeans or a knee length skirt with shoes and you are good to go.

  2. Wow, this is so interesting! Of course I have heard of the North Korean government setting up fake businesses and things like that, but I had no idea they built whole fake towns! That is so interesting! And so cool that you got to see that! That is crazy that they didn’t give you a refund for the second half being cut short though! But atleast you still had fun. Now I know we will definitely visit the dmz when we go to South Korea!

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