Living and traveling in Korea

The Soul of Seoul

A Complete Guide For How To Visit The DMZ From Seoul

Not only was I featured on CNN for sharing some hidden gems in the DMZ, but I’ve been there multiple times over my more than 15 years living in Korea. If you want to visit the DMZ or take a DMZ tour, or maybe you’re wondering how to visit JSA, then you’ve come to the right spot for all of the information you’ll need to plan the trek. I say trek, but it’s actually easier than you might think.

The DMZ in Korea can be closed for any number of political reasons so you’ll want to know everything you can about where you can and can’t go if the actual entrances in are blocked to tourists. Even when they are, there are areas you CAN visit to still get a peak north… Ready to learn more? Let’s figure out how to get to the DMZ from Seoul and more.

DMZ Gondola, Imjingak, Paju, Korea

What you need to know to plan a trip to the DMZ in Korea:

What Is The DMZ?

Where is the dmz, what you need to know about visiting the dmz, what’s the difference between the dmz and jsa, tours to the dmz, the bridge of freedom (자유의다리), peace park (임진각평화누리), dmz gondola (파주디엠지곤돌라), camp greaves (캠프그리브스), third tunnel (제3땅굴), dora observatory (도라전망대), dorasan station (도라산역), the joint security area (jsa), odusan unification observatory (오두산 통일전망대).

  • Things to know about heading to the Cheorwon DMZ area

North Korean Labor Party Building (노동당사)

Woljeong-ri station (월정리역), cheorwan peace observatory (철원평화전망대), second underground tunnel (제2땅굴), cheorwon plains (migratory bird habitat) (철원평야(철새도래지)).

(This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a certain percentage of a sale if you purchase after clicking at no cost to you. Thank you for your support.)

Imjingak, Paju, Korea

DMZ stands for demilitarized zone and is the area between North Korea and South Korea. This buffer zone or no-man’s land exists because of the Korean War, which technically never ended though there are always discussions on peace. Measuring four kilometers in width and 250 kilometers long, the DMZ was put in place in 1953 when the Armistice Agreement was signed.

The DMZ runs the entire northern border of South Korea so while there are more popular areas of the DMZ where tourists visit, there are more areas than just one spot to find the DMZ. Below, I’ll share points along the DMZ where you can visit starting with the easiest and most popular and going from there. I’ve also made a note where you can visit that’s really really close even when you can’t get inside the DMZ. When tours are closed, fear not, there are still some really cool spots to check out to see what you can see and learn what you can learn.

Imjingak, Paju, Korea

  • You MUST Be On A Tour: You can get pretty darn close to the DMZ without being on a tour, and I’m going to tell you how, but you CANNOT enter the DMZ unless you’re actually on a tour with an official tour company with a registered guide. This is the info that you’ll find most places. There are parts of the Civilian Control Zone that you can enter though even without a tour too.
  • You MUST Have An ID/Passport: You’ll need to show your ARC (local Alien Registration Card)/passport in order to enter the DMZ. If you’re a resident, you should be fine with your ARC, I’ve used mine on two separate tours, BUT to be safe, take your passport. Every major tour company will tell you you must have your passport for a tour, so take it or they probably won’t let you on their bus. I went with two companies that said my ARC was fine though. Just my experience.
  • Be Aware Of Your Clothes:  There is sort of a dress code for visiting the DMZ though I’ve just gone casual and never had issue. BUT, they do recommend that you don’t wear sandals, especially if you’ll be going down into the tunnels. You also shouldn’t wear ripped jeans or clothing as they say that North Korea may take photos of the tourists watching them and use it as false propaganda.
  • Be Mindful Of Movements: When looking out into North Korea from any vantage point, you’ll be instructed not to wave, point, or make signals toward North Korea. Just assume that you’re being watched.

Camp Greaves, Imjingak, Korea: DMZ

You might be surprised on your tour if you sign up to see the DMZ and then don’t see the blue buildings that are often portrayed on the news when talking about North and South Korea. DMZ, as mentioned above, refers to the demilitarized zone but JSA is specifically the Joint Security Area which is as close as you can get to North Korea.

While most people want to visit the JSA when they’re talking about the DMZ, it’s usually the area that is often closed to tourists. While it is though, you can often visit other parts of the DMZ and that’s one reason I’m writing this. A lot of people think when the JSA is closed, they can’t visit the DMZ. They are a bit different though and tours may still run to other parts of the DMZ. So keep that in mind.

Camp Greaves, Imjingak, Korea: DMZ

While there are areas that you can visit on your own around Imjingak and other civilian control points, a tour is the best way to really learn and get an education on the DMZ from the past and today. There are quite a few tours that even have North Korean defectors as the guide so there is a lot you can learn.

Note Age Restrictions:  It’s important to note that not all tour companies allow children below the age of 10 on tours to the JSA. If you’re planning a trip to the DMZ/JSA, make sure to check with the tour company if you plan on taking small children. Children must be accompanied by a parent at all times.

Tours You Can Take:

  • Tour Length:  6.5 hours long. Starts at 8:00am and ends at 2:30pm
  • Reasons To Book: Easy to book and cancel if necessary on Klook. Free cancellation with 48 hours notice. English speaking guides.
  • Tour Length: Ranges from 6 hours to 9 hours depending on which tour you book.
  • Reasong To Book: Free cancellation, English speaking guides.
  • DMZ Tour with the Joint Security Area (JSA): Currently the JSA isn’t open to tourists. When it is, I’ll update this tour option.

Timing: Most tours require a 2-5 day advance reservation, so plan accordingly.

The Most Popular DMZ Area: Imjingak Resort (임진각관간지)

The most popular area to visit the DMZ for visitors/tourists in Seoul usually includes a stop at Imjingak Park, Freedom Bridge, Dorasan Station, Dora Observatory, and the Third Tunnel. What a lot of people want to see when they go to the DMZ , but often can’t due to restrictions, another tour up to/through the Imjingak area visits the Joint Security Area (JSA), Odusan Unification Observatory, the Third Tunnel, and Dora Observatory.

Called a resort, but don’t expect a hotel with a swimming pool or anything. Picture a giant parking lot with various things to see and do that surround it. You can actually visit the Imjingak area on your own and there’s a lot to do there. If you want to go further in, you’ll need a guide, BUT, here’s what you can do at Imjingak and then how to go further in from there if you want to plan your own trip.

What You Can See

Imjingak, Paju, Korea

The bridge that is both a symbol of and named for freedom is where prisoners were exchanged after the war. The bridge is blocked off now and the fence leading to it is covered in hopeful prayer ribbons. There is an old rusted train that is on display here as well that is riddled with bullets from the war and, if you look out for it, you’ll spot an entrance to an underground exhibition area here too. Koreans with family in the north often come to this point to pray, especially around big Korean holidays, so remember to be respectful and quiet when you’re in this area.

  • Address:  1400-6 Majeong-ri, Munsan-eub, Paju-si, Gyeonggi-do (경기 파주시 문산읍 마정리 1400-6)
  • Note: You do not need a tour to visit this.

Peace Park sits in the Imjingak Resort area and is basically a large grassy expanse that can accommodate up to 20,000 people. There are various art installations that are meant to depict peace between the north and the south. When you visit, make sure to take a walk up and through the field and see what installations are on display. Some of them change throughout the year. Walk up and over the hillside and you’ll find a cafe to stop into. The cafe in the pond is always busier though.

  • Address:  148-40 Imjingak-ro, Munsan-eub, Paju-si, Gyeonggi-do (경기 파주시 문산읍 임진각로 148-40)

Peace Park (임진각평화누리), Imjingak, Paju, Korea

One of the newest additions to the Imjingak Resort area is the DMZ Gondola. To take the ride, you’ll need to show your ID/Passport and then once to the other side, you can visit Camp Greaves, previously an American installation in the DMZ. Check out more below. This is a fun ride if you have the time and want to enter the civilian control zone in the easiest way there is.

  • Address: 148-73 Imjingak-ro, Munsan-eub, Paju-si, Gyeonggi-do (경기 파주시 문산읍 임진각로 148-73)
  • Hours:  Weekdays: 10:00am ~ 6:00pm; Weekends: 9:00am ~ 6:00pm
  • Admission:  W7,000 ~ W14,000 (Price depends on whether you choose the glass bottom or the regular.)

Camp Greaves, Imjingak, Korea: DMZ

When I first visited Camp Greaves, the only way to get there was to take a bus over a bridge where our passports were checked but since the gondola was built, now that’s how you get to this former American military installation in the DMZ. Today, Camp Greaves is an art, culture, and history complex inside of the Paju Civilian Control Zone. This is a really interesting place to learn more about the DMZ as the artistic exhibitions are promoting peace and display references to history. This is a unique look at the DMZ as you’re in the Civilian Control Zone and on a former American installation. Learn more about Camp Greaves in my full post here .

Discovered in 1978, the 1635 meter long tunnel was made by North Korea though they denied it at first. This is one of four tunnels that have been dug by North Korea and found. To enter, you’ll get a locker to place your belongings in and then be given a helmet to don because the tunnel is narrow and low.

The tunnel is steep! Be prepared to huff and puff. To be honest, I don’t think the tunnel is any more interesting than other tunnels in Korea… or anywhere, except that the story and information behind it is.

  • Note: You do need a tour to visit this.

Imjingak, Paju, Korea

Either before or after the station, visitors are taken up to the Dora Observatory which sits at the top of Dorasan Mountain. Take a look out into North Korea. You can see Kijong-dong Propaganda Village from the viewpoint and on really clear days, you’d be able to spot Kaesong, a special industrial area where both North Koreans and South Koreans can work side by side.

Dorasan Station, Imjingak, Paju, Korea

Often the final destination on tours is Dorasan Station. This is the last train station before the border and is a symbol of the peaceful future. The idea is that some day, when there is peace, this train line will continue north and south and families can re-unite. Visitors can get a fake ticket to Pyeongyang and even have it stamped.

  • Address:  307 Huimang-ro, Jeongdan-myeon, Paju-si, Gyeonggi-do (경기 파주시 장단면 희망로 307)
  • Tour schedule:  Depart from Yongsan Station (10:08) – Seoul Station (10:15) – Arrive at Imjingang Station (11:24) – Complete identity check (11:32) – Arrive at Dorasan Station and board connecting bus (11:43) – Dorasan Peace Park (12:10) – Lunch break at Tongilchon (Unification Village) (13:00) – Dora Observatory (14:00) – The 3rd Tunnel (14:40) – Tour Unification Platform (15:50) – Depart from Dorasan Station (16:27) – Seoul Station (17:47) – Arrive at Yongsan Station (17:54)
  • Train   Tickets:  Adults: W36,000; Children: W33,000
  • For More Information

Namyangju Studios, Korea

The closest point a tourist can get to North Korea. One of those spots that everyone wants to see in person, the JSA tour may or may not be opened and it depends on the political tensions at the time. If restrictions are heightened, then you’ll likely be able to go to the stops above, but not this one. If you can see it though, this is the blue building spot that you see in the news and will recognize easily.

Generally for tours to this area, visitors first visit Camp Bonifas, a United Nations command post that houses the United Nations Command Security Battalion whose mission is to monitor and enforce the Korean Armistice Agreement. You’ll see the Unification Bridge, Freedom House, Demarcation Line, MAC Building, and Bridge of No Return.

An observatory on Odusan mountain, use the binoculars to get a closer look into North Korea. The observatories are all relatively the same. Head up to the top, look through the binoculars and see what you can catch a glimpse of.

  • Address:  369 Pilseung-ro, Paju-si, Gyeonggi-do (경기도 파주시 탄현면 필승로 369)

A Hidden Natural DMZ Gem: Cheorwon

Most tourists and even long term residents and travelers will head to the Imjingak DMZ area, but there’s another DMZ tour area just northwest of Seoul in Cheorwon.

Cheorwon is special because it’s more natural and untouched so a lot of visitors, and specifically birdwatchers, will go to see the yearly migrations of cranes and other birds that stop here while simultaneously taking a tour of the DMZ. Cheorwon is a special area with some major sites from war to see, but also a ton of natural wonder.

Cheorwon DMZ, Korea

When I first went for a tour, tours started from the Cheorwon Facilities Management Office formerly Iron Triangle Tourist Office (철원 시설물관리사업소 (구 철의삼각전적관)). Now, it looks like you can search the Tourist Information Center or 철원 DMZ 형화관광안내센터 and that’s where you’ll start. Surprise, the two places I just mentioned are the same spot but there’s been some changes there.

Anyway, visitors must stop here to get on a tour. If you take your own car, a guide may jump into your car, or you’ll be asked to join a caravan behind another car that has the guide. If you don’t have a car, you’ll need to get a taxi that can also enter the DMZ.

  • Address: 1825 Taebong-ro, Cheorwon-gun, Gangwon-do (강원도 철원군 동송읍 태봉로 1823)

Things to know about heading to the Cheorwon DMZ area:

  • Reservation in advance is not allowed. You must get to the DMZ Peace Tourist Information Center on time. If you miss the time to enter with the guide, you will not be permitted to enter. Make sure you plan how you’re getting there to a T.
  • Note that registration for a tour closes 15 minutes prior to the times listed above so you can’t rock up AT 10:00am or 2:00pm and jump on a tour. You need time to fill in forms.
  • On-site registration is first-come first-serve basis.
  • The tour takes approximately 2 and a half hours.
  • You must carry your ID to enter.
  • Check the local Cheorwon Tourism website for updates and seasonal adjustments to times.

Cheorwon DMZ, Korea

The building was built in 1946 and used until the armistice in 1953 by the party. North Korea controlled this area for five years as it falls above the 38 th parallel but during the Korean War this area came under the control of South Korea and UN forces and when the armistice was signed was still under the control of the South. The bullet holes and loss of the ceiling of the building are blunt reminders of the violence this area saw and though there was once a vibrant and large city here, now there are just rice paddies and checkpoints.

Cheorwon DMZ, Korea

The building is just the shell of what it once was, a stop on the Seoul-Gangwon line, but sitting in the back is an old North Korean transport train, bombed by American forces. Woljeong-ri Station is the last stop before reaching the DMZ and is the spot where the fiercest battle was held during the Korean War.

  • Address: 1882 Durumi-ro, Cheorwon-gun, Gangwon-do (강원도 철원군 철원읍 두루미로 1882 (철원읍))

From here, you’ll be able to take in the views out of the DMZ. There is a monorail here that will take you up so it’s easier to get to and you can use the binoculars to catch a glimpse of what you can see on the other side of the DMZ.

  • Address: 588-14 Junggang-ri, Cheorwon-gun, Gangwon-do (강원도 철원군 동송읍 중강리 588-14)

Cheorwon DMZ, Korea

Discovered on March 19th, 1975, a soldier heard an explosion beneath the ground and there it was. The tunnel is 3.5 kilometers long and is 50-160 meters deep. Don a hard hat and descend into the wet and dark tunnel.

If you are interested in birdwatching and you’re in Korea , well you probably already know, maybe this is for the people that don’t, the Cheorwon Plains sees 30% of the world’s wild crane population during migration season. And that’s just the cranes. There are 110 species of birds that migrate through Cheorwon and use the calm surroundings as a natural habitat to feast when they stop through. To view the amazing bird scenery, you’ll want to visit Cheorwon between the beginning of January and the end of February.

You’d still start from the same place as mentioned above, but the tours are a bit different with this one being on the tour focused on migratory birds. Tours also stop at Togyo Reservoir, Sapseulbong Peak, and Saemtong.

The DMZ isn’t just one place. It seems that a lot of tourists don’t realize that. There’s more places to go than you might realize. And there are plenty of things you can do on your own pretty close to the civilian control zone as well.

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A Complete Guide For How To Visit The DMZ From Seoul: There are quite a few places to visit the DMZ in Korea. Here is how to visit the DMZ from Seoul whether it's Imjingak, JSA, or Cheorwon.

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30 comments, ken carlson.

My wife and I will be coming to Korea early June 2024, and will visit for roughly 2 months. I am actually looking for a phone number to call in Korea for tours to get a much more deeper idea and understanding what would be the best for us to do, our heart is to have a deeper understanding of North Korea and to see as much as we possibly could. If you could provide any phone numbers that we can call so that we can talk or detail of different tours or options of again visiting spots close to the North Korea side That are safe of course. Thank you.

I’m here now and was looking for Dmz options that were more unique than the regular tour, this is the best collection of information that I came across. Thank you. I can’t wait to go there tomorrow

Hallie Bradley

I appreciate that Robert and hope you had a good day out.

Thanks for the information and there’s so much to take in. I’m visiting in Oct 2024 and really want to see the JSA. Are there any tour agencies that only do the JSA tours or does it have to be with the DMZ? I’m physically unfit so I won’t have the ability to do the tunnels. Would appreciate any advise. Thank you.

Thank you Hallie, for such a wonderful post. I have been looking for these details and stumbled upon your page. I did a DMZ-JSA tour back in 2017 with a tour, but in Jan 2024 I am planning to go to DMZ with my family. Since my dad and my 3-year-old nephew are joining, we plan to drive on our own, as based on my experience with the 3rd tunnel, it is not convenient for my dad – but all the tours seem to include the 3rd tunnel.

My dad really wishes to see the north border, so we plan to at least visit the Dora Observatory, the Bridge of Freedom, and if possible the DMZ Gondola. If you don’t mind, I have a few questions, if it is possible for you to answer. 1. If we were to drive on our own, are there any travel restrictions for foreign visitors i.e. military checkpoints etc. If so, will passports be sufficient or are there any special passes required?

2. Are the Dora Observatory, DMZ Gondola, and Bridge of Freedom accessible from the same parking facilities, or do we have to drive from one point to another? Or do we park the car at the Imjingak Pyeonghwa-Nuri Park and get to all these attraction from there? I am a bit concerned with this as it seems that the Dora Observaotry does not show on KakaoMap navigation, and I could only pin to Imjingak Pyeonghwa-Nuri Park.

3. Any idea if we could also visit the Dorasan Station without a tour? Since we will drive on our own as the DMZ train is still not operating (I checked with Korail last week). Can we drive there to the station?

Hi, so you can’t go into the DMZ or through any checkpoints on your own at all. You can go tot he Imjingak/Pyeonghwa Nuri Park area on your own. From here, you can take the cable car over the Camp Greaves on your own as it’s in the Civilian Control Zone (showing your passport when you get tickets for the gondola), you can see the Bridge of Freedom here as well, all without moving your vehicle. But, you can’t go any further on your own. You need to have a certified guide to go to Dora Station, Third Tunnel, etc. For the 3rd Tunnel just so you know, you ride a monorail so if it’s the walking up and down you’re worried about, your dad can sit or just not take the ride down into the tunnel.

Thanks for your prompt reply! Do you know if the Dora Observatory is also accessible without a guide or is that considered as DMZ, and restricted? In the Paju website, it is stated that we can buy a DMZ tour ticket at ticket booth. So, if the Dora Observatory requires the DMZ tour, I guess that is the ticket that we can buy at the booth without following a tour from Seoul. Have you perhaps tried this?

Is the JSA open? Do they allow electric scooter to be used for a disabled person? Thanks

JSA hasn’t been open for awhile. Other parts of the DMZ are open though if you enter with a certified guide. You can use the sites listed above to book a tour with a guide.

Not sure how updated your info is but I’m in Seoul station on Oct 1st, 2023 and according to the information desk here there haven’t been any DMZ train since 2019! The only way to get there aside from a tour is to take the subway to Musan station and transfer with a shuttle bus to Imjingang then find a tour company there

Yeah, a lot of things stopped due to Covid and Korea only stopped requiring masks in February of this year so has taken awhile to get everything back up and started again. Hopefully that comes back in full force again. But yes, you can get up to Imjigang pretty easily. From there you can take a tour further in, or take the cable car to Camp Greaves just across the river there. Quite a few options to see the civilian control zone.

Thanks for sharing the information! May I check if it’s possible to drive there on our own, pls?

What are you trying to drive to? Which area? You can’t just drive into the DMZ.

Any idea if the JSA tours are open for tourists? Am trying to go on my own if possible! Such a wonderful site thank you!

Hi, firstly, thank you for sharing these details and also help set expectations for newbies like myself. My family and i plan to do this tour (likely with klook) but i’d like to ask for another piece of advise. I am told that booking with klook etc only gets you to the DMZ area but does not gurantee you a ticket in. These tickets must be purchased only when you are there… Thus, these “tours” asks that you are ready to rock and go to the DMZ area like at 5am but see if you are lucky to get tickets in? Another friend said they were there are 5am, tickets to enter were only available for 10am. I am sorry i do not yet know where they are trying to get into but i’d ask anyway hoping that you could help with some advise on such a situation? thanks!

I worked with a tour guide recently who was taking a group out and he said that they only let a certain number of buses in per day and thus tour groups are heading out earlier and earlier to ensure they can get their groups in as promised which means that you probably will have to leave super early if you want to be sure you’ll get in. If your group leaves later, you will probably see Imjingak and other sites nearby, but maybe not the tunnel.

Joe Patterson

Definitely not. Current political affairs are not stable enough to allow JSA access. If you are going to the DMZ to learn more about the Korean political relations then you don’t need the JSA. The tours provided will explain what you need to know.

By the way, we took the advice on this blog in October 2022 and were successful in taking a KORAIL train to Munsan. Then in Munsan we had to get off and wait 15-30 minutes. Along came a local train at the same platform. That train took us to Imjingang two or so stops later. Then we walked about 1/4 mile and we’re able to get on a tour bus and gondola ride. We paid about 10% of the cost that tour groups were charging from Seoul.

It’s now July 2023 and we’re on the train doing the same travel again. It’s Sunday so we’re hoping that we don’t have troubles with tour availability. I can provide an update later today. Good luck with your travels!

Hi Joe, thank you for yr inputs. Hallie’s too!

Joe, is it possible for you to update your July 23 trip to DMZ. I am looking into going on our own instead of joining a tour in Seoul, I cam’t imagine going early to wait those few hours!

Really appreciate it very much!

This is a wonderful overview, thank you so much! I have visited the DMZ in 2015, but will come back end of March with a friend again. I was thinking of taking the train from Yongsan station. Do I understand correctly that there will be a bus waiting for the tour to Dora Observatory etc. – and will there be additional costs for the bus ride? The bus will return in time so that we can take the train back to Seoul?

Right. If the train is running, then the bus and the tour there is all set up since you can’t just go wandering on your own in that area.

Thea Angelie Manila

Hi, firstly thank you so much for this post. I was so confused as I did the tour in 2015 but then see a lot of different things when I search for a tour these days. Now I don’t know what to do as it’s a 5am start.🙈 we have the KORAIL PASS and it says DMZ train is included so would probably like to do the train-bus combo instead of startingbthe tour in seould and wait for 5 hours. However, I tried multiple times and couldn’t book on the korail website. Should we just head to the yo gsan station and book it there?

Did you check the KORAIL site? https://www.letskorail.com/ebizbf/EbizBfAboutDmz_Train.do There’s a schedule and booking button there. There’s also a phone number for the KORAIL travel center which could help you as well.

Thanks for the helpful guide! You mentioned some places that needed tours and some places that do not need tours.

If I were to drive to DMZ, would there be a tour that we can take upon arriving at the DMZ? So that we can spend half day on tour (visiting places requiring tours) and the other half day without tour (visiting places not requiring tour)?

Yes, so it depends which area you’re headed to. But if you’re going to the Paju area, you’d head to Imjingak where you can do some things on your own, but you’ll also see an area where you can join in tours. If you go to Cheorwon, similarly, you’ll go to the office I mentioned above where you can join in for the areas that require a guide and then do other spots on your own.

Wow! This is just a detailed and latest read! Very helpful. Been to Korea for ten times already, but haven’t visited the DMZ areas as I thought those were only accessible via organized tours (and read a lot of stories of organized tours being cancelled without prior notice due to military activites). But the wanderlust in me wants to see it in my next travel, hence landing in your write up. I think of doing the DIY since it can give me the flexibility on trip dates. Thank you for this!

Yes, there are a lot of places that are very close and, like I said, even some now that you can go right into on your own and people don’t realize it. I hope you have a great adventure!

We are staying in Seoul at the moment. Can you let us know a good adress where we can book at tour to the DMZ. Thanks.

Regarding Odusan Unification Observatory, I have read some other sites that say there is no tour required to enter the observatory and that you can take a shuttle to it that runs every thirty minutes and pay an entry fee. Have you heard of that option?

This was very helpful! I live in Daegu and I’m planning my first DMZ trip. Do you reccomend an area to stay in Seoul that’s near where tour groups meet/pick up? I’ll have to take the KTX the night before and stay overnight in Seoul for a morning tour. Thanks!

It depends which company you’re going with. But a lot of them pick up downtown so staying near Seoul Station probably wouldn’t be a bad idea. If you wanted to head out to Imjingak on your own, you could stay in Hapjeong and get a bus from there or catch the DMZ train from Seoul Station in the morning. Definitely some options.

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How to Visit North Korea’s DMZ Border (Updated 2023)

visit dmz korea

A s controversial a place as North Korea is, it's swiftly gaining attention from the curious tourist eye. Our intrigue to see it was piqued during a visit to Seoul with friends. Having now taken the DMZ tour ourselves, this highly informative if not haunting experience is one we would highly recommend . So, if you've got guts and a desire to get a snippet into one of the most closed countries on earth, here's how to do it!

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Getting there & where to stay

First, you need to get yourself to Seoul, which is the nearest major city to the DMZ border. South Korea is only reachable by flight, with most planes flying into Incheon International Airport. Use Skyscanner and search by entire month to see the cheapest dates to fly. Be sure to check our flight booking hacks here to get yourself the best price. And don't forget to book your airport transfer and a 4G Data SIM card before you land!

A fast way to get a big discount on your flight is to sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card. This card offers a massive sign-up bonus of 60,000 bonus points (worth $750 ) after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. United and Singapore Airlines are both partner airlines of this card, and both offer flights to Seoul, meaning you can convert your points to these airline loyalty programs, or just book directly through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Seoul is a buzzing megacity with plenty of enticing accommodation options. There are plentiful  AirBNBs  and  hotel  selections, but be sure to reserve ahead in peak season. Some convenient neighbourhood options include Hongdae, Itaewon, Myeongdong, Gangnam, and Jamsil. Check  TripAdvisor  for more local tips and advice.

There is plenty to explore in Seoul itself, and a local guide can help ensure you catch the best of the best. Be sure to check out the Gyeongbok Palace & Temple , or grab the Seoul Pass , which grants free entry to 65 attractions and discounted entry to 101 more.

How to visit North Korea's DMZ Border:

Step 1. choose your points of interest.

There are several companies that operate DMZ tours. As much as I despise group tours, you can only visit the DMZ with a tour , as it has restricted civilian access and requires a mandatory military escort.

No two tours are the same, but you should choose one based on your budget, customer reviews, and points of interest that are included. Tours can be browsed with reviews, prices, and instant confirmation through Klook , GetYourGuide and Viator . The main highlights to select from are as follows:

The Joint Security Area (JSA)

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Located in Panmunjom, the JSA is the closest point a tourist can get to North Korea . At this spot, you'll have a chance to physically stand in North Korea itself and take a photo as proof (more on that below). This area is occupied by the South Korean and US military, and is complete with a gift shop selling original items from North Korea, including stamps, money, and wine (which in our experience tastes like nail polish remover and turpentine but hey, at least you can say you tried it).

NOTE: As of 2023, the JSA is still closed to visitors due to COVID, and is not included in any tours.

Odusan Unification Observatory

One can safely view day-to-day life in North Korea without setting foot in the country at Mt Odu Observatory. Binoculars (free of charge) provide ultra zoomed up views of North Korea opposite the Han river below. On our visit we were able to see civilians walking around on the other side.

Infiltration Tunnels

PMJ tunnel photo

Scarily enough, around the time that the North and South were having peace talks, North Korea began digging underground tunnels to infiltrate the South. They were never completed, but were discovered in 1984. The longest tunnel is 1,082 metres. The 3rd tunnel is the closest to Seoul (only 44km away) and could move ~30,000 troops and artillery per hour.

Dora Observatory

This observatory offers binocular views of North Korea's fake town, Kijong-dong. The town was first built in the 1950's to lure South Koreans to defect and move across the border. From visual observations from the South, it has been uninhabited with windowless, incomplete buildings since its construction.

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Dora Observatory is so named after Dorasan the mountain on which it sits. The nearest train station has a fully completed train line that runs to Pyongyang. Though the North cooperated in its completion, it was never used. It is hoped that when re-unification is reached, the train line will be used to connect the two Koreas.

Freedom Bridge

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The Freedom Bridge connects North and South Korea, though a massive barricade blocks entry to the connecting point over the river. If the two sides are ever connected, this bridge could be used to enter and exit North Korea.

Step 2. Select a tour

Once you've decided on your must-see highlights (as listed above), you can select a tour.

There are traditional tour companies to choose from, which are listed at the end of this article along with prices and contact information, but it's much easier to book tours online with Klook , GetYourGuide  and Viator . You pay in advance and get fast confirmation, so all you need to do is bring your voucher to the tour. There are reviews, photos, and videos that make choosing the right tour simple. The traditional companies require back and forth e-mail or phone communication when booking direct, so Klook , GetYourGuide  and  Viator are convenient ways to avoid all that hassle.

One of the most popular tours is this day tour on Klook , with more than 50,000 bookings. This is the tour most of our readers have chosen, and is the tour we would select today. Our trip was now several years ago, and at the time we took the Special Panmunjom Tour by Panmunjeom Travel Center  which does not visit the tunnels but goes to Odu Observatory and the JSA. This tour offered the chance to speak with a North Korean refugee (defector). This allowed us to learn about how people escape the North, how they adapt to life afterwards, and what knowledge they have of the outside world living in North Korea.

Get $10 USD off your first Klook purchase with coupon code THRIFTY10 (minimum spend $120 USD, new users only)

Here are some of the top-rated tours that can be booked online:

visit dmz korea

South Korea Demilitarized Zone Half-Day Tour (Bestseller)

From Seoul: Half-Day Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) Tour

From Seoul: Half-Day Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) Tour

visit dmz korea

DMZ Past and Present: Korean Demilitarized Zone Tour from Seoul

Step 3. take ( lots of ) photos of north korea.

Much of the road towards the JSA border runs parallel to the Han River, which separates the two countries. It's nothing short of unique to be sitting in a bus with views of North Korea passing by out your window.

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The binoculars at the Dora and Odu observatory provide ultra zoomed views of North Korea. One can even see North Korean civilians walking around on the other side, as we did during our visit at Odu . At Dora Observatory, North Korea's fake town, Kijong-dong, is viewed.

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Step 4. Cross the border into North Korea

On a tension-free day at the JSA, one can legally take a step into North Korea. But how and why ?

The blue buildings pictured below are UN Command neutral zones. Midway, the inside of these blue buildings cross the North/South Korea border. Inside the building on the right (UNCMAC) is where meetings between the two countries are housed.

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If you want photo evidence that you physically stood in North Korea, this can be done . You can pose with a South Korean soldier within  North Korea at the back of the UNCMAC room. Be warned though (and you will be), if you cross through the door behind you, no one is responsible for your safety as you'll be alone and in North Korea.

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Important Points About DMZ Tours

  • Many tours require reservation 2-5 days in advance , so check ahead.
  • If visiting the JSA, you must sign a waiver agreeing that no one is responsible for accident, injury, or even death . Take comfort in the fact that these tours are done every day and you are accompanied by military escorts at the border!
  • You must bring your passport for most tours , and it is checked by army personnel on arrival at the JSA.
  • You must adhere to the specified dress code (e.g. no ripped jeans, sandals, or unkempt hair). These rules are strictly enforced as North Korean soldiers take photos and produce false propaganda that other countries are too poor to afford proper clothing.
  • Tours can end unexpectedly at any time if tensions rise at the border . That means you are not be guaranteed to step into the UNCMAC at the JSA, nor is it certain you'll get a photo across the border.

In Summary…

Partaking in the DMZ tour allows yourself to gain much more depth on a humanitarian crisis that the world does not know enough about. If you have the chance to do this trip, I'd highly recommend it.

Tour Companies & Pricing

Alternatively, you can contact one of the tour companies below directly and book with them.

Panmunjeom Travel Center Website : www.panmunjomtour.com Telephone : +82-2-771-5593 (Korean, English, Japanese) Price : 80,000-77,000 won (~$60-$77 USD). All tours include lunch. Note : Tours offered in Korean, English, and Japanese. This is the only company that allows you to meet a North Korean defector/refugee, ask them questions, and better understand the human rights issues of North Korea.

VIP Travel Website: http://www.vviptravel.com/eng/ Telephone: 02-739-3501 ext. 4 Price: 55,000-135,000 won ($48 – $120 USD). Most tours include lunch. Notes: Tours offered in English, Japanese, Chinese. None of the tours include any forced shopping stops.

Koridoor Website :  www.koridoor.co.kr Telephone : 02-6383-2570 ext. 2 Price : 43-89,000 won (~$41-$80 USD). Most tours include lunch. Notes : Tours offered in English.

JSA Tour Website : www.jsatour.com Telephone : +82-2-2266-3350 Price : 85,000-120,000 won (~$85-$120 USD). All tours include lunch. Notes : Tours offered in Korean, English, Japanese, and Chinese.

DMZ Spy Tour Website : www.dmzspytour.com Telephone : +82-10-3950-8350 Price: 88,000-114,000 won (~$88-$114 USD). Tours include lunch. Notes : Tours offered in Korean, English, Japanese, and Chinese.

International Culture Service Club Website : www.tourdmz.com Telephone : +82-2-755-0073 Price : 65,000-85,000 won (~$65-$85 USD). All tours include lunch. Notes : Tours offered in Korean, English and Japanese. This is the only company that does Saturday tours.

Seoul City Tour Website : www.seoulcitytour.net Telephone : +82-2-774-3345 Price: 40,000-125,000 won (~$40-$125 USD). Only some tours include lunch. Notes : Tours are offered in Korean, English, Japanese, and Chinese.

KTB Tour Website : www.go2korea.co.kr Telephone : +82-2-778-0150 Price : 65,000-130,000 won (~$65-$130 USD). All tours include lunch. Notes : Tours offered in Korean, English, Japanese, and Chinese.

DMZ & JSA Tour (Professional Guide Service / Celebrity's choice Agency) Website : www.cosmojin.com Telephone : +82-2-318-0345 (Korean, English, Japanese), +82-2-318-0425 (Chinese) Price : 46,000 won (~$46 USD) for half-day tour, 87,000 won (~$87 USD) for full day tour. Lunch included on full day tour. Notes : Tours offered in Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese.

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You guys are so brave! This makes me a bit nervous and I’m not sure I would be able to do it!

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  • Travel Destinations

How To Visit Korea’s JSA & The DMZ Tour (Guide & Tips)

Published: September 10, 2023

Modified: December 27, 2023

by Gilberta Hewitt

  • Plan Your Trip
  • Travel Guide
  • Travel Tips
  • South Korea

how-to-visit-koreas-jsa-the-dmz-tour-guide-tips

Introduction

Welcome to the enchanting and historically significant world of Korea’s Joint Security Area (JSA) and Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) tour. This unique journey offers visitors a rare glimpse into the political and military complexities of the Korean Peninsula.

Situated just 35 miles north of Seoul, the JSA & DMZ serve as a powerful reminder of the division between North and South Korea. It is a place where past and present intersect, where tension and curiosity coexist, making it a must-visit destination for history buffs, adventure seekers, and those interested in geopolitics.

The JSA, also known as Panmunjom, is the only point where North and South Korean soldiers stand face-to-face. It is a symbol of the ongoing ceasefire agreement and the fortified border that separates the two nations. On the other hand, the DMZ spans 2.5 miles on either side of the border, creating a buffer zone that preserves a fragile peace.

In this comprehensive guide, we will provide you with all the necessary information to ensure a memorable and smooth JSA & DMZ tour experience. We will cover everything from understanding the significance of these areas to preparing for the journey, booking a tour, navigating security regulations, and exploring the key highlights of the JSA and DMZ.

Whether you are a history enthusiast wanting to witness the vestiges of the Korean War, a curious traveler intrigued by geopolitics, or simply someone seeking a unique and offbeat adventure, the JSA & DMZ tour offers something for everyone.

So, buckle up as we unravel the wonders of the JSA & DMZ and guide you through this fascinating journey into one of the most politically charged regions in the world.

Understanding the JSA & DMZ

Before embarking on your JSA & DMZ tour, it’s essential to grasp the historical and political significance of these areas. The Joint Security Area (JSA) and the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) play a crucial role in the ongoing conflict between North and South Korea.

The JSA, also known as Panmunjom, is a small area within the DMZ where meetings between the two Koreas take place. It is the only spot where North Korean and South Korean soldiers stand face-to-face, creating a visually captivating and tense atmosphere. This is highly symbolic of the division and ongoing ceasefire agreement between the two nations.

The DMZ, on the other hand, is a 2.5-mile-wide de facto border that stretches across the Korean Peninsula. This buffer zone was established at the end of the Korean War in 1953 to maintain a fragile peace between the two countries. It acts as a demilitarized zone, limiting military presence and activities, while also preserving a unique ecosystem that has flourished in the absence of human interference.

The DMZ has become a significant tourist attraction, offering a glimpse into the history and current state of affairs between North and South Korea. It houses various landmarks, such as the Third Tunnel of Aggression, the Dora Observatory, and the Imjingak Park, each carrying its own story and historical context.

One of the most remarkable features of the JSA is the famous blue conference buildings, where inter-Korean meetings take place. The building itself straddles the military demarcation line, with one half technically belonging to North Korea and the other half to South Korea. Visitors to the JSA can step inside these buildings and stand in both countries simultaneously, experiencing a truly unique and surreal moment.

Understanding the historical context and geopolitical dynamics of the JSA & DMZ will enrich your tour experience, allowing you to appreciate the significance of the sites you will visit. It’s essential to approach the tour with an open mind and a willingness to learn about the complexities and challenges faced by the two Koreas.

Now that you have a better understanding of the JSA & DMZ, it’s time to prepare for your journey. In the next section, we will provide you with essential tips on how to plan and book your tour.

Preparing for the Tour

Embarking on a tour to the JSA & DMZ requires careful preparation to ensure a smooth and fulfilling experience. Here are some essential tips to help you get ready for your journey:

  • Check travel advisories: Before planning your tour, it’s crucial to check the latest travel advisories and warnings issued by your government. Ensure that it is safe to visit the area and that there are no restrictions or security concerns.
  • Reserve in advance: Due to high demand and limited daily visitor quotas, it’s advisable to book your JSA & DMZ tour well in advance. This will secure your spot and allow you to choose from various tour options.
  • Choose a reputable tour operator: Selecting a reliable and experienced tour operator is vital for a successful JSA & DMZ tour. Look for operators with positive reviews, knowledgeable guides, and adherence to safety protocols.
  • Prepare necessary documents: Carry your passport or identification document with you as it will be required for verification purposes at the security checkpoints. Additionally, ensure to have a printed copy of your tour confirmation or e-ticket.
  • Dress appropriately: As the JSA & DMZ are active military areas, wearing casual, comfortable clothing is recommended. Avoid clothing with provocative slogans or symbols, and do not wear clothing resembling military uniforms.
  • Observe photography restrictions: There are certain areas within the JSA & DMZ where photography is strictly prohibited. Follow the instructions of your tour guide and respect these limitations to avoid any unwanted complications.
  • Pack essentials: Carry essential items such as sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, a reusable water bottle, and a raincoat or umbrella, as the weather can change unexpectedly. It’s also advisable to pack some snacks for the tour as food options may be limited.
  • Follow security guidelines: A visit to the JSA & DMZ involves passing through multiple security checkpoints. Be prepared to undergo security screenings, including bag checks and metal detector scans. Follow the instructions of the tour guide and security personnel at all times.
  • Be respectful and mindful: The JSA & DMZ hold significant historical and political importance. Show respect for the solemnity of the sites and the military personnel present. Refrain from making inappropriate jokes or engaging in disruptive behavior.

By following these preparatory steps, you will be well-equipped to embark on a fulfilling and memorable tour to the JSA & DMZ. The next section will guide you through the process of booking a tour to ensure you secure your spot and make the most of your visit.

Booking a Tour

Booking a tour to the JSA & DMZ is the most convenient and recommended way to visit these historically significant areas. Here are some key considerations when booking your tour:

  • Research different tour options: Start by conducting thorough research on various tour operators that offer JSA & DMZ tours. Look for reputable companies that have positive reviews, experienced guides, and comprehensive itineraries.
  • Compare tour packages: Take the time to compare different tour packages and their inclusions. Some tours may prioritize specific sites within the JSA & DMZ, so choose a tour that aligns with your interests and preferences.
  • Check availability: Due to limited daily visitor quotas, it’s crucial to check the availability of tours on your chosen date. Popular months and weekends tend to get booked quickly, so plan ahead and secure your spot early.
  • Consider additional attractions: Some tour packages may include visits to additional attractions near the JSA & DMZ, such as the Third Tunnel of Aggression or the Dora Observatory. If you’re interested in exploring these sites, look for tours that offer these options.
  • Read reviews and testimonials: Before finalizing your booking, read reviews and testimonials from previous tour participants. This will give you insights into the experiences of others and help you make an informed decision.
  • Check cancellation policy: Ensure you are familiar with the tour operator’s cancellation policy. Circumstances may change, and having a clear understanding of the cancellation terms will provide you with peace of mind.
  • Book through a reputable platform: Use trusted booking platforms or directly book through the tour operator’s official website. This will help ensure the legitimacy of your reservation and minimize the risk of fraudulent activities.
  • Provide accurate information: When booking your tour, make sure to provide accurate personal details, including your full name, passport or ID number, and contact information. Double-check the information for any errors before submitting your reservation.
  • Confirm the meeting point: Pay attention to the meeting point provided by the tour operator. Familiarize yourself with the location and plan your transportation accordingly to arrive on time.
  • Keep a copy of your reservation: Once your tour is booked, keep a digital or printed copy of your reservation confirmation. This will serve as proof of your booking and make the check-in process smoother on the day of the tour.

By following these guidelines, you can easily navigate the process of booking a tour to the JSA & DMZ. Booking in advance ensures that you secure your spot and grants you peace of mind, knowing that your visit to these historically significant areas is well organized.

Next, we will discuss the various transportation options available to reach the JSA & DMZ for your tour.

Getting to the JSA & DMZ

Reaching the Joint Security Area (JSA) and the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) for your tour requires careful consideration of transportation options. Here are the main ways to get to the JSA & DMZ:

  • Join a guided tour: The most popular and convenient way to reach the JSA & DMZ is by joining a guided tour. Tour operators provide organized transportation with pick-up and drop-off points in major cities, such as Seoul. This eliminates the hassle of navigating public transportation and ensures you have a knowledgeable guide throughout the journey.
  • Public transportation: If you prefer to explore on your own, you can use public transportation to reach the JSA & DMZ. From Seoul, take the subway or a local bus to Imjingak Park, a central area near the DMZ. From there, you can transfer to a designated shuttle bus that takes visitors to the JSA and other key sites within the DMZ.
  • Hire a private driver: For a more personalized experience, you can hire a private driver to take you to the JSA & DMZ. This option offers flexibility in terms of itinerary and allows for customization based on your interests and schedule.
  • Group tours: Some organizations and universities also organize group tours to the JSA & DMZ. These tours often include transportation and provide a unique opportunity to explore the area with like-minded individuals.
  • DMZ Train: The DMZ Train is a popular option for visitors who want a scenic journey to the DMZ. This train departs from Seoul and takes you through the beautiful countryside before arriving at the DMZ. From there, shuttle buses are available to transfer you to the JSA and other attractions.

It’s important to note that regardless of the transportation option you choose, access to the JSA is only possible through guided tours, as it is a highly secure military area.

When planning your journey to the JSA & DMZ, consider factors such as convenience, time constraints, and personal preferences. Guided tours provide a hassle-free experience, while public transportation and private drivers offer more flexibility and customization.

Next, let’s delve into the security regulations and guidelines you need to be aware of before visiting the JSA & DMZ.

Security and Regulations

Visiting the Joint Security Area (JSA) and the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) requires strict adherence to security regulations. As these areas are still active military zones, it’s essential to be aware of the following guidelines:

  • Identification and registration: When entering the JSA & DMZ, all visitors must present a valid identification document, such as a passport. This is necessary for security purposes and to ensure that only authorized individuals enter the area. Along with ID verification, visitors are also required to register their personal information before entering the JSA.
  • No inappropriate behavior: Respect the solemnity and sensitivity of the JSA & DMZ by refraining from inappropriate behavior, such as making jokes, taking selfies in inappropriate locations, or engaging in disruptive behavior. Follow the instructions provided by the tour guide and security personnel at all times.
  • No pointing or gesturing: It is strictly prohibited to point, gesture, or make any provocative actions towards North Korean soldiers or personnel. While it may seem harmless, such actions can escalate tensions and compromise the security and integrity of the area.
  • Stay within designated areas: During the tour, it’s important to stay within the designated areas and follow the instructions of your tour guide. Straying from the identified paths or crossing into unauthorized areas is not allowed, as it can jeopardize personal safety and violate security regulations.
  • Be mindful of photography restrictions: Certain areas within the JSA & DMZ have strict photography restrictions. Listen to your tour guide and follow their instructions regarding where photography is allowed and where it is prohibited. Ignoring these guidelines can lead to confiscation of equipment or other consequences.
  • Respect dress code: As the JSA & DMZ are military areas, it’s important to dress appropriately. Avoid wearing clothing with provocative slogans or symbols, and do not wear attire resembling military uniforms. Dress comfortably, and consider the weather conditions when choosing your outfit.
  • Do not bring restricted items: Leave behind any items that are considered restricted within the JSA & DMZ, such as weapons, drones, large backpacks, or flammable substances. Security checks are conducted, and bringing restricted items can result in delays or denial of entry.
  • Follow emergency procedures: In the event of an emergency or unforeseen situation, listen to the instructions provided by your tour guide and follow their lead. They are trained to handle any unexpected incidents and will prioritize your safety and well-being.
  • Stay informed: Stay updated on any changes in security regulations or guidelines prior to your visit. Check the official websites or contact your tour operator for the most up-to-date information. It is your responsibility to stay informed and comply with the regulations in place.

By adhering to these security regulations and guidelines, you can ensure a safe and respectful visit to the JSA & DMZ. Remember, these areas are sensitive and hold deep historical and political significance, so it is essential to approach the tour with a responsible and mindful attitude.

Now that you are familiar with the security regulations, it’s time to delve into the highlights and key attractions of the Joint Security Area (JSA) and the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in the next section.

Exploring the Joint Security Area (JSA)

The Joint Security Area (JSA), also known as Panmunjom, is the heart of the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and a highlight of any visit to this region. Here, visitors have the unique opportunity to witness the standoff between North and South Korea and experience the tension and history firsthand.

Upon arrival at the JSA, you will be guided through various significant sites by a knowledgeable tour guide. Here are some key highlights you can expect to explore:

  • Panmunjom: Panmunjom is the main area within the JSA where negotiations between North and South Korea take place. It’s an iconic symbol of the division between the two nations. Visitors can step into the blue conference buildings, where inter-Korean meetings occur. Standing precisely on the military demarcation line, you can find yourself in both North and South Korea simultaneously, creating a truly surreal experience.
  • Freedom House and Conference Row: Freedom House is a building located within the JSA that was built for inter-Korean reunions. It serves as a venue for various diplomatic engagements and discussions. Nearby, you can also witness the Conference Row, a series of buildings where military officials from both sides of the border convene for meetings.
  • Bridge of No Return: The Bridge of No Return holds historical significance as the site where prisoner exchanges took place during the Korean War. It got its name after the war when prisoners were given the choice to stay in their captor’s country or return to their home country. Once they crossed this bridge, there was no turning back.
  • Peace Bell: The Peace Bell is a striking monument located within the JSA. It serves as a symbol of hope and unity for the Korean people, reminding visitors of the importance of peace and reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula.
  • Observation Points: As part of the JSA tour, you will have the opportunity to visit observation points that overlook North Korea. These points allow you to glimpse into the neighboring country and witness the stark contrast between the two sides of the border.

Exploring the Joint Security Area provides a profound insight into the ongoing tensions and political complexities of the Korean Peninsula. It’s a chance to witness history in action and gain a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by both North and South Korea.

Now, let’s move on to the next section, where we will unveil the captivating sites and experiences offered by the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

Visiting the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)

The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is a captivating and historically significant area that stretches across the Korean Peninsula, separating North and South Korea. A visit to the DMZ offers a unique opportunity to understand the geopolitical dynamics and experience the remnants of the Korean War. Here are some key highlights and experiences you can expect when visiting the DMZ:

  • The Third Tunnel of Aggression: One of the most intriguing sites within the DMZ is the Third Tunnel of Aggression. This tunnel was discovered in 1978 and is believed to have been crafted by North Korea as a potential invasion route into South Korea. Visitors can explore a section of the tunnel and learn about its historical significance.
  • Dora Observatory: The Dora Observatory provides a panoramic view of the DMZ and the surrounding area. On a clear day, you can even catch a glimpse of the North Korean city of Kaesong. This observatory not only offers stunning views but also serves as a reminder of the division and the desire for reunification.
  • Imjingak Park: Imjingak Park is a symbolic area located near the DMZ, offering a peaceful and reflective atmosphere. It features landmarks like the Bridge of Freedom, which was used by prisoners of war returning to South Korea, and the Freedom Bell, which represents the hope for reunification. Imjingak Park is a poignant reminder of the shared history and aspirations of the Korean people.
  • Panoramic view from Dora Sanzan: For an even more striking view of the DMZ, you can visit Dora Sanzan, a trio of hills located near the border. From here, you can witness the vast expanse of the DMZ and appreciate the stark contrast between the heavily guarded border and the peaceful landscape beyond.
  • Unification Bridge: The Unification Bridge is a symbolic suspension bridge that spans the Imjin River, connecting North and South Korea. While visitors cannot cross the bridge, it serves as a reminder of the hope for reunification and the desire to bridge the gap between the two nations.

A visit to the DMZ offers not only a chance to witness the physical division but also an opportunity to reflect on the shared history and aspirations of the Korean people. It serves as a powerful reminder of the ongoing strive for peace and reunification.

Now that you are familiar with the highlights of the DMZ, it’s time to delve into some essential tips and advice to make the most of your JSA & DMZ tour. Continue reading to ensure a memorable and enriching experience!

Important Tips and Advice

To ensure a smooth and enjoyable JSA & DMZ tour experience, here are some essential tips and advice to consider:

  • Follow instructions and guidelines: Always listen to the instructions provided by your tour guide and follow any guidelines given. They are there to ensure your safety and the integrity of the areas you will visit.
  • Arrive early: Plan to arrive early at the meeting point to avoid any delays or rushing. This will give you time to check-in, go through security checks, and familiarize yourself with the tour itinerary.
  • Respect the solemnity of the sites: Both the JSA and the DMZ are areas of deep historical and political significance. Show respect and refrain from making jokes or engaging in inappropriate behavior that may diminish the seriousness of the locations.
  • Stay with the group: Throughout the tour, it’s essential to stay with your tour group and follow the designated paths. Straying from the group or crossing into unauthorized areas is strictly prohibited for security reasons.
  • Keep your personal belongings secure: As you will be passing through various security checkpoints, keep your personal belongings secure and watchful. Avoid bringing unnecessary valuables and always keep an eye on your belongings to prevent any loss or confusion.
  • Stay informed about the latest news: Keep yourself updated on any changes or developments related to the JSA & DMZ. This includes checking official websites and monitoring news updates to ensure you have the most accurate information before your tour.
  • Be mindful of the sensitivities: Remember that visiting the JSA & DMZ is a unique experience that involves the ongoing political and military tensions between North and South Korea. Be mindful of the sensitivities and avoid engaging in discussions or actions that may cause unnecessary tension.
  • Engage with your tour guide: Make the most of your tour by engaging with your knowledgeable tour guide. They can provide valuable insights, answer your questions, and enhance your understanding of the sites you visit.
  • Capture memories respectfully: Photography is allowed in certain areas, but be mindful of the restrictions and guidelines. Respect the privacy of others and the solemn nature of the sites when capturing your memories. Avoid taking selfies in inappropriate locations and always ask permission before taking photos of other visitors or military personnel.
  • Reflect on the experience: After the tour, take a moment to reflect on the experience and the knowledge you have gained. The JSA & DMZ tour offers a unique perspective on the complex history and political situation of the Korean Peninsula, and embracing this opportunity for reflection can enhance your overall understanding and appreciation.

By keeping these tips and advice in mind, you can ensure a respectful, safe, and enlightening JSA & DMZ tour. Now, armed with essential knowledge, prepare for an unforgettable journey through the fascinating world of the Joint Security Area and the Demilitarized Zone.

To conclude, the JSA & DMZ tour is a profound adventure that offers a rare opportunity to witness the ongoing division and historical significance of the Korean Peninsula. It’s a journey that combines geopolitics, history, and cultural understanding, leaving visitors with a deeper appreciation for the complexities and struggles faced by the Korean people. So, get ready to embark on this extraordinary venture and immerse yourself in the mesmerizing world of the JSA & DMZ!

The Joint Security Area (JSA) and the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) tour offers a remarkable opportunity to explore the historical, political, and cultural complexities of the Korean Peninsula. This journey provides a deeper understanding of the ongoing division between North and South Korea while allowing visitors to witness firsthand the tension and symbolism of these areas.

From standing in both North and South Korea simultaneously at the JSA to exploring the historical sites within the DMZ, such as the Third Tunnel of Aggression and the Dora Observatory, every step of the tour is filled with profound insights and thought-provoking experiences.

To make the most of your JSA & DMZ tour, it’s essential to prepare in advance, book your tour with reputable operators, and adhere to the security regulations. By following these guidelines, you ensure a smooth and safe experience as you delve into the fascinating world of the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

As you journey through the JSA and the DMZ, remember to approach each site with respect, mindfulness, and a desire to learn. Engage with your knowledgeable tour guide, capture memories respectfully, and be cognizant of the sensitivities surrounding the ongoing conflict.

By the end of your tour, you will leave with a profound understanding of the historical significance, political challenges, and aspirations for peace and reunification that define the Korean Peninsula. The JSA & DMZ tour offers an incredible journey that will leave an indelible mark on your understanding of this region.

So, prepare for a captivating adventure as you unravel the wonders of the Joint Security Area and the Demilitarized Zone. Embrace the unique experiences, reflect on the complexities of the Korean Peninsula, and return home with a deeper appreciation for the historical and geopolitical intricacies that shape this captivating part of the world.

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How to Visit the Korean DMZ

visit dmz korea

It’s one of the world's most heavily militarized borders, but the 160-mile stretch of land that separates North Korea from South Korea is also a tourist draw welcoming more than a million visitors a year. 

This area, known as the Korean demilitarized zone, or DMZ, is a no-man's land about 30 miles north of Seoul. It was created as a buffer in 1953 when the countries agreed to a cease-fire to pause the Korean War. 

The DMZ splits the Korean Peninsula in half, separating communist North Korea from capitalist South Korea. It sits along the 38th parallel, the original dividing line that gave the U.S. control of one side and the Soviet Union control of the other in the aftermath of World War II. In 1953, North and South Korea each agreed to move their troops back 1.2 miles to create the DMZ. 

Today, visiting the DMZ is one of the best day trips you can make from Seoul. It’s a place to learn about Korean history, the Korean War—which killed more than three million people—and the Koreans whose families have been divided just as the Korean peninsula has. Just don’t try and visit on your own. The DMZ can only be visited on a guided tour. 

Be sure to book your tour in advance and try to schedule your tour for early in your visit. The DMZ is known to close on occasion with little or no notice. 

How to Get to the DMZ

The only way to visit the DMZ is on a tour. Viator alone lists 18 different tours from which travelers can choose. Tours typically depart from Seoul, with many offering hotel pickups and dropoff service. The area is about an hour or so drive from Seoul. A handful of trains run from Seoul to Dorason Station within the DMZ, however visiting the area’s sites requires a guided tour. 

What to Do at the DMZ 

The main sights at the DMZ are The Bridge of Freedom, the Bridge of No Return, Dora Observatory, Dorason Station, and the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel. Certain tours also visit the Joint Security Area, also referred to as Panmunjom. 

The JSA was historically used for diplomatic meetings. It's where prisoners of war were repatriated in 1953 and where the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed. 

Until last year, the Joint Security Area was a place where armed North Korean and South Korean soldiers literally stood face to face with one another. South Korean guards carried pistols and stood in a modified taekwondo stance, clenching their fists and wearing sunglasses as a means of intimidating their North Korean counterparts. 

Within the JSA is the Bridge of No Return, which was used for prisoner exchanges at the end of the Korean War. Its name is a reflection of the choice given prisoners of war. They could choose to remain in North Korea or cross the bridge never to return. The bridge was last used for a prisoner exchange in 1968.

Nowadays, the Joint Security Area primarily a tourist attraction and one of the few places where tourists can set foot inside North Korea. The JSA is home to a collection of blue buildings that straddle North and South Korea. Landmines were cleared from the area in 2018, and personnel working there are no longer armed. 

If setting foot in North Korea isn’t on your bucket list, you can peek across the border from the Dora Observatory. The camouflage viewpoint is situated on top of a mountain and outfitted with several sets of binoculars through which you can catch a glimpse of North Korea’s propaganda village and the manufacturing city of Kaesong.

Kaesong was meant to be a place where raw materials from the south could be assembled into finished products and re-exported to the south. For about a year, freight trains carried raw materials to Kaesong and returned with finished goods. 

Those trains passed Dorason Station, a commuter train station built to one day connect North and South Korean rail systems. Today, a handful of trains from Seoul terminate at Dorason Station.

The 3rd Tunnel was a North Korean effort discovered in 1978. It’s a mile long, 6.5 feet wide and 6.5 feet tall. An estimated 30,000 soldiers could move through the tunnel every hour. Visitors can enter the tunnel either by walking or by a monorail. Exhibits outside the tunnel document Korea’s history of division. If souvenir shopping is on your agenda, you’ll find options here. 

Tips for Visiting the DMZ

  • Don’t dress like a slob, especially if you’re taking a USO-organized tour of the area. Bare midriffs, sleeveless tops, open-toed shoes, and ripped jeans aren’t allowed. Remember, a poorly dressed tourist could find themselves becoming North Korean propaganda. 
  • Visiting the DMZ during your trip to South Korea is a must-do, but don't forget to book your tour in advance.
  • Don’t forget your passport. You’ll need it to access key sights.

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Taking A Korea DMZ Tour From Seoul – What To Expect + Tips

korea dmz tour

Table of Contents

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Taking a DMZ tour from Seoul was high on my South Korea bucket list . I’d wanted to visit for years, ever since I’d first learnt about the unique and tragic situation in North Korea. I was happy to learn that tourists can visit the DMZ… So that’s what I did! There was so much I still didn’t know: how had North and South Korea split? How had the DMZ buffer come to exist? Was there any chance of unity between the countries? In this blog, I’ll answer these questions and share my Korea tips for taking a Seoul to the DMZ day tour.

SEOUL ESSENTIALS Accommodation: Booking.com /  Hostelworld Activities:  Viator / GetYourGuide Getting there: air ( Skyscanner )  / Train ( Trip.com ) / bus Getting around: Subway, bus, taxi Pre-book private airport to hotel transfer

Related read: ultimate 2 week South Korea itinerary

How to take a DMZ tour from Seoul

During my time in Seoul, I visited the DMZ as a half-day tour ($68). Taking a tour is necessary: in fact, you cannot visit the DMZ without a tour. Sadly there are no Korea budget hacks to see it cheaply. Tourists have to go with an official tour company and a registered guide. Don’t forget your passport! This is my best tip for a DMZ day trip. On the way there, our guide explained that if even one guest had forgotten their passport, no one on the coach would be allowed in. Then she asked anyone who might have forgotten to put their hand up and make themselves known. Can you imagine anything more awkward than having to confess? Thankfully no one did. I really valued the opportunity to visit the DMZ with a South Korea n tour guide. Ours had seen the effects of the DMZ first hand: her grandmother’s family had been split up by the divide and they’d never seen members of the family again. It’s hard to even imagine.

Statue dmz day tour

What is the DMZ?

The DMZ stands for the demilitarized zone : an area of no man’s land that acts as a buffer between North and South Korea. Other such buffers exist and have existed to separate countries or areas with a troubled history. It makes sense: two regions at loggerheads are more likely to fight and invade one another if they are at a close locality. The DMZ measures four kilometres in size. It’s not an entirely empty area because there are three villages inside: a fake propaganda village erected by the North Korean government, a real farmers village and an abandoned factory workers village that was inhabited until the 2016 threats of nuclear weapons from Kim Jung Un. I’ll talk more about these later when I discuss the observatory viewing platform.

A quick history of the DMZ

The DMZ was put in place at the end of the Korean War. This era was a tragic one that saw the loss of almost 10 million Korean lives. Yet it wasn’t fought just by Koreans: this war from 1950 to 1953 was a product of the Cold War, fuelled by America and Russia. If you know much about the Vietnamese war, it’s the same, right down to the fact that the Soviets occupied the North and the Americans occupied the South, fighting to stop the country slipping to the other’s school of thought. This ideological war was happening in many countries around the world at this time. The Korean War ended in 1953, although it was technically won by neither side. An Armistice agreement was signed but no peace treaty was. The North stayed communist and was annexed by Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of the leader today, Kim Jong Un. With no peace restored between the countries, a buffer zone seemed the only way to keep the countries at bay. The DMZ was born.

Memorial at Imjingak Park

The two types of DMZ tour from Seoul 

Depending on how much you want to see, there are two different DMZ tours from Seoul.

  • The DMZ tour from Seoul (half day) including Dora Observatory, Imjingak Park, Tunnel 3 and the last train station. It runs every day.
  • The DMZ tour from Seoul ( full-day) including the stops previously mentioned and the JSA (Joint Security Area). This is the only place you can see North and South Korea soldiers standing face-to-face. However, this tour is more costly and often cancelled last minute due to political tensions. 2022 update – these tours are not currently taking place. I’ll update this if things change.

In my opinion, the best DMZ tours are with GetYourGuide because they’re easy to book and have flexible cancellation policies.

What can you expect when visiting the DMZ from Seoul?

If you take a half-day DMZ tour like I did, it will last around 5 hours and stop at the following points of interest:

Imjingak Park

The first stop of our DMZ tour included seeing some statues and memorials relating to the Korean War and the DMZ that’s cut off so many families. You can also see war tanks and aircraft dating back to the War, as well as The Bridge of Freedom which many South Koreans crossed to come home after having been displaced by the fighting. While it was an interesting stop, I was excited to get to…

Third Tunnel 

Despite the DMZ being put in place, North Korea have still tried to invade South Korea several times. In fact, four sizeable underground tunnels have been discovered in the DMZ. When The Third Tunnel of Aggression (what a name!) was discovered in the 1970s measuring 435 metres in length, North Korea said it wasn’t theirs. Later they changed their story and claimed they had been searching for natural resources. The whole situation is scary but at least all of these attempts to invade South Korea have been unsuccessful.  The Third Tunnel is the only one visitors can go inside during DMZ Korea tours. It was very cold, dark and eerie (although less so because it was so busy) and we had to wear helmets in case of falling rocks. The journey back up was up a very steep slope so make sure you’re in good health to do this! Honestly, the tunnel was unremarkable and could have been any in the world. Yet knowing its history made it a very interesting stop indeed. How often can you say you’ve walked inside a living piece of history like this?

Dora Observatory

Dora Observatory dmz tours from seoul

For me, the most interesting stop of our DMZ day tour from Seoul was Dora Observatory looking over the DMZ. From here you can see the fake Peace Village erected by North Korea, something I found bizarre and fascinating.  According to North Korea, the Peace Village is inhabited by a community of farming families who have access to childcare, a hospital and school. Indeed, these buildings do exist and, from afar, it’s a colourful and attractive village.

The one problem? It’s totally empty. Nobody lives there and its only purpose is propaganda: to give the impression all is well in North Korea. Apparently, they think it may encourage South Koreans to defect to North Korea, although I’m not sure why anyone would! When you visit Dora Observatory, you’ll see two other villages located in the DMZ. One acted as a village for factory workers but has been abandoned since the nuclear weapon threats of 2016.

The other is a real farmers village , home to a small population of North Koreans. Straining my eyes through the binoculars, I was fascinated to spy an elderly man riding a bicycle. Trying to picture his life blew my mind. He’d have little to no understanding of the outside world and no access to foreign media. He’d be part of a communist system that prevents him from becoming wealthy and prohibits democratic procedures like voting to elect a new leader. To see him with my own eyes made everything feel real and sad.

Dorasan Station

Dorasan Station

The final destination on the DMZ Seoul tour was Dorasan Station , the last train station before the border. A journey arrives and departs Seoul daily but the line can’t continue any further as the next stop would be in North Korea. Many South Koreans have donated money so that, if and when unity is restored, a line can be built connecting the divided nations. Ultimately, this is what South Koreans want: unity and to see their long-lost family members again. Will it happen? Our guide said she hopes it will one day but it’s not on the cards for the immediate future. King Jong Un is still young and showing no signs of cooperation.

Ticket at Dorasan Station dmz korea tour

At Dorason Station, visitors can purchase a pretend ticket to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. I bought one for 1,000 won (£1) and stamped it myself. This hopeful act made me feel sad again, for the North Koreans living under a dictatorship and for the South Koreans who have lost their loved ones. What a mad world we live in, but I’m so grateful for my ability to explore it.

Tips for the Korea DMZ tour from Seoul

  • Dress relatively smart – word has it that North Korean soldiers sometimes photograph tourists in casual clothes like ripped jeans to use as propaganda to convince North Koreans that the outside world is poor and dangerous. Best not to let them.
  • Bring your passport! Just double-reminding you so your whole tour doesn’t get denied entry 😉
  • Pack any necessary medication like asthma inhalers etc – the walk up from the Third Tunnel is steep and a little cold. You’re meant to leave all your belongings and bags in a locker but you could bring something small like this in your pocket.

Overall, my experience visiting the DMZ from Seoul wasn’t happy or upbeat but it was truly worthwhile. Visiting is so important in order to understand the country and what the people have been through. I feel much better educated now about the situation in North and South Korea. If you’re planning a trip, I hope my tips for the Korea DMZ tour help you out 🙂 Browse and book DMZ tours from Seoul:

Thanks for reading!

Check out my other South Korea blogs:

  • The ultimate South Korea bucket list
  • 30 South Korea travel tips
  • Solo female travel in Korea
  • South Korea travel budget
  • The best Busan day trips
  • How to spend 2 weeks in South Korea
  • The perfect 5 days in Seoul
  • A guide to visiting Jeju Island without a car
  • The ultimate Busan itinerary
  • South Korea food guide
  • Jeonju travel guide

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DMZ day tour seoul

VISITING SOUTH KOREA? These are my trusted resources: Flights – I use Skyscanner to find the best-value flights, using the ‘search by month’ tool to find the cheapest dates. You can also use the ‘to anywhere’ feature if you’re flexible on where you’re going. Buses – buses are comfy and efficient. It’s tricky for foreigners to book online so it’s best to turn up on the day. Trains – use Trip.com , partner of Korail (the official railway network of Korea) to book your tickets in advance. The website accepts international payment options, unlike Korean rail websites. Click the three stripes in the top right corner then the flag to change it to English. Driving in Korea – use Rentalcars.com to compare car rentals. Hiring a car will be especially useful on Jeju Island. For hotels in Korea, I use Booking.com – they also have self-catering apartments. You can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld . Browse South Korea tours and activities on GetYourGuide . I also check Viator and Klook in case they have a better price. For food tours with passionate local chefs and foodies, check out EatWith . Need travel insurance ? I use True Traveller (for UK & Europe residents) since it’s affordable but covers everything you’d need including various activities, valuables and pre-existing conditions. Unlike some companies, they insure you if you’re already travelling / don’t yet have your flight home booked. Get a quote . For travel insurance for other nationalities, I recommend Hey Mundo and for long-term digital nomad travellers, I suggest Safety Wing . Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and tips!

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Rose is a solo traveller from the UK who has been on the road since 2015. She wants to show other women that solo travel isn't scary and doesn't have to be expensive! Rose has lived in Mexico, Canada and all over Asia, seeking out food, bubble tea and street art wherever she goes!

2 thoughts on “ Taking A Korea DMZ Tour From Seoul – What To Expect + Tips ”

visit dmz korea

I read on this article that you had a really great south korean tour guide for the DMZ. I was wondering if you remembered her name, or the specific tour you took. I ask because I would also like to book a DMZ tour and found her story quite interesting and moving. Would love to get a chance to do the tour with her!

Do let me know – thanks!

visit dmz korea

Hello, I don’t recall her name now or have a contact. Sorry!

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visit dmz korea

The 4km-wide, 240km-long buffer known as the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) slashes across the peninsula, separating North and South Korea. Lined on both sides by tank traps, electric fences, landmines and armies in full battle readiness, it's a sinister place where the tension is palpable. Surreally, it's also a major tourist attraction, with several observation points allowing you to peek into the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK; North Korea). For history buffs and collectors of weird and unsettling experiences, a visit here is not to be missed.

Attractions

Must-see attractions.

Joint Security Area

Joint Security Area

Unquestionably the highlight of any trip to the DMZ is the Joint Security Area (JSA) at Panmunjeom. An improbable tourist destination, it's here where the…

Third Infiltration Tunnel

Third Infiltration Tunnel

Since 1974, four tunnels have been found running under the DMZ, dug by the North Koreans so that their army could launch a surprise attack. Walking along…

Dora Observatory

Dora Observatory

Peer through binoculars for a voyeuristic glimpse into the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK; North Korea). On a clear day you can make out…

Dorasan Train Station

Dorasan Train Station

Awaiting the next departure to Pyongyang (and onward trans-Eurasian intercontinental travel), Dorasan train station stands as a symbol of hope for the…

Imjingak

This park is dedicated to the 10 million South Koreans separated from their families when the peninsula was divided postwar. Also here is the Freedom…

Dorasan Peace Park

Dorasan Peace Park

This mildly diverting park has a couple of modern Korean tanks, some deer, an outdoor photo display and a few saplings called, groovily, the Paul…

Ticket 4 Two Please

Visiting The Korean DMZ - Everything You Need To Know

Visiting the Korean DMZ

Visiting the Korean DMZ, the famous demilitarised zone between the North and South is one of the most popular things to do during a trip to the Korean Peninsula. 

It is a genuinely unique and sobering place to visit and unlike anywhere else in the world. 

In this article, we discuss everything you need to know about visiting the Korean DMZ. 

We describe exactly how you can visit the DMZ, provide safety advice for visiting and even include tips on what things are worth seeing during your visit. 

So, let’s dive into: Visiting the Korean DMZ - Everything you need to know

Disclaimer - this blog post contains affiliate links where we can earn a commission if you make a purchase through them (at no extra cost to you).

The easiest way to visit the Korean DMZ is to embark on an Affordable DMZ Tour that includes round-trip transfer from Seoul and a visit to the Dara Observatory Lookout Point!

How to visit the DMZ

By far and away, the easiest, stress-free and most popular choice for visiting the DMZ is through an organised tour from Seoul. 

The capital city is the base for most travellers to South Korea, and as a result, there is a wealth of options when it comes to day trips from Seoul - particularly for DMZ tour options.

Three of the most popular and reputable options are outlined below. We have ranked all 3 options and have given you our choice for the best-organised tour of the Korean DMZ.

Our 1st Choice: Klook

Klook Logo

Reputation: 5/5

Reviews: 5/5

Best option for travellers from Asia and Oceania

2nd Best Choice: GetYourGuide

GetYourGuide

Reviews: 4/5

Best option for travellers from Europe and Worldwide

Joint 2nd Best Choice: Viator

Viator

Reputation: 4/5

Best option for travellers from North and South America

Brief history of the DMZ  

The Korean Demilitarized Zone, often simply referred to as the DMZ, is a strip of land that runs through the heart of the Korean Peninsula along the 38th parallel line. 

At 250km long and roughly 4km wide, the DMZ was established as a buffer zone between North and South Korea in 1953, bringing to an end the brutal Korean War that lasted 3 years and claimed over 1 million lives.

Common questions about visiting the Korean DMZ

What is the best way to see the dmz.

You can only visit the DMZ by joining an organised tour (private or group). Our choice for the best-organised tour is the South Korea Demilitarized Zone Tour with Klook - it is a brilliant experience!

Is it safe to visit the DMZ? 

This is a particularly tricky question to answer as it is entirely subjective. Naturally, visiting one of the planet's most fortified borders comes with its unique set of risk factors. 

It is probably more risky to visit the Korean DMZ than to visit Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul, for example, but this isn’t to say that the DMZ isn’t safe. 

North Korea has a history of being pretty impulsive, so, in theory, anything could happen at any time. 

In general, though, the DMZ is visited en masse throughout the year, and as long as you follow instructions, it is an easy place to visit. 

How much does it cost to visit the DMZ? 

An important question for many is how much does it cost to visit the Korean DMZ? Obviously, this is dependent on how you choose to visit the DMZ and what tour agency you choose to visit with but roughly speaking, here is an estimate of the costs:

Half day DMZ Tour from Seoul - $60-70

Full day DMZ Tour from Seoul - $90-100

Private DMZ Tour from Seoul - $150+

How long do you need to spend at the DMZ? 

Most of the tours from Seoul to the DMZ are advertised as half-day tours, but in reality, you should probably plan to be there for the majority of the day.  

This is because visitor numbers are capped each day, meaning tour guides often arrive a few hours early to the ticket office to guarantee their tour will be part of the lucky few. 

As a result, you can often arrive at 7 am but won’t board the shuttle bus into the DMZ until 11 am. Thereafter, it takes at least 3 hours to visit the sights within the actual demilitarised zone before heading back to the South Korean side.

Visiting Seoul soon? Then you’ll probably need to know how to buy a Korean SIM card at the airport - it’s pretty straightforward when you follow our step-by-step guide!

Is it ethical to visit the DMZ? 

This is a question we had pondered over several times before we eventually decided to visit the Korean DMZ. 

It is certainly one of those places in the world that kind of makes you feel uneasy about visiting - it does appear particularly voyeuristic to watch North Koreans go about their daily lives through a telescope, knowing full well that they are severely restricted and repressed. 

Having said this, however, our guide stressed to us how important it is for people to visit the DMZ. It encourages people to learn about the history of the Korean Peninsula, and ultimately, this is a good thing. 

We were especially impressed by the lack of South Korean propaganda - instead, our visit really highlighted how desperately the Korean people want to be United again in the future. A valuable tip for visiting South Korea is to make sure you visit the DMZ. There is no better way to learn about the plight of the Korean Peninsula than to see it with your own eyes.

Can you visit the DMZ independently?

While it is possible to visit the Civilian Control Zone independently, to visit the Korean DMZ, you have to be part of an organised tour and have a registered guide. It is mandatory.

Korean DMZ

Korean DMZ - one of the most fascinating places we’ve ever visited

Best things to see at the DMZ

Imjingak park.

The first place you enter during your visit to the DMZ is Imjingak Park - this is the entrance point to the DMZ and is where the tour guides buy your tickets for your visit. 

Imjingak Park is home to several notable landmarks that you can see while you’re waiting for your allotted shuttle bus time to take you further into the DMZ. 

Here’s a few of the main focal points of Imjingak Park:

Reunification Bridge - an 83m long bridge most notable for being the venue of prisoner-of-war exchanges between the North and South. 

Notes on the chain-link fence - all around the DMZ are a series of fortified, barbed-wired, chain-link fences but the one found in Imjingak Park possesses several handwritten, colourful notes - personal pleas for peace and unity. 

Abandoned train - for over 50 years, the train lay abandoned in the DMZ, slowly being left to rust. It was eventually rescued and now sits in Imjingak Park as a lasting symbol of peace. 

Peace Gondola - the peace gondola is a cable car that takes you across the Imjin River and into the Northernmost reaches of South Korea. On the other side, you can see the peace observatory - offering views directly into the DMZ. 

South Korean Military Bunker - while only small in size, this military bunker in Imjingak Park is a stark reminder of the tragedies that took place during the Korean War.  

Barbed wire fence - Korean DMZ

Barbed wire fence covered in handwritten notes of peace and unity at the DMZ

Looking for more great experiences in South Korea? We’d suggest visiting Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung Palace as well as taking a trip to N Seoul Tower !

The Third Tunnel  

Measuring a staggering 435m in length, the Third Tunnel of Aggression was discovered in the 1970s, and today, you are able to go into the tunnel during your visit to the DMZ. 

The tunnel is one of 4 officially discovered by the South, believed to have been built by the North in an attempt to reach Seoul, the capital of South Korea. 

To go into the tunnel, you have to leave all your belongings in a locker (including your phone and camera!) and go through security scanners. You even have to wear a helmet because, in places, the tunnel is as little as 1.5m high. 

Once you reach the end of the tunnel, you can peer through a little window and see where the tunnel continues. Now, you are standing around only 150m from North Korea.

Third Tunnel of Aggression - Korean DMZ

Guarded entrance to the Third Tunnel of Aggression

Dora Observatory (Line of Telescopes)

For us, this was the highlight of our visit to the Korean DMZ. At the Dora Observatory, there is a line of telescopes that can be used to take a peek into one of the most closed-off communities in the world. 

Looking through the telescope, watching North Koreans driving their mopeds and tending to their crops is an utterly unique experience. While we appreciate it is somewhat voyeuristic, it isn’t until you see the people from the North with your own eyes that you truly realise how sad and desperate the political situation in North Korea really is.

Dora Observatory - Korean DMZ

Orla looking into North Korea at the Dora Observatory

Joint Security Area (JSA)  

An eerie place where North and South Korean soldiers stand face-to-face at opposite ends of a courtyard. The Joint Security Area (JSA) is the designated area where political talks and negotiations have occurred over the years. 

Understandably, the JSA is under the mercy of political tensions and relationships at any given time, and so it is very common for visits to the JSA to be cancelled with little-to-no notice.

Worth noting: the JSA is currently not open to visitors due to the political tensions between the North and the South. At the time of writing, there is no guarantee that it will be reopened any time soon.

Safety advice for visiting the DMZ

As we have mentioned previously, visiting one of the world’s most heavily fortified borders presents a unique set of challenges and concerns for travellers. 

Generally, a trip to the DMZ passes by without incident, but it is still essential to be cautious and respectful when visiting. 

Here’s a few of our best safety tips for the Korean DMZ:  

Always listen to your guide and DMZ staff - they are there to help you and keep you safe, so listen to what they say. 

Keep up to date with the current political climate - reading the news leading up to your visit means you can make an informed decision as to whether you feel comfortable visiting the DMZ. 

Stick to the designated areas - it’s not the kind of place where you want to be wandering off! 

Follow signs and instructions - pretty self-explanatory but still important; please follow the rules.

Handwritten peace notes - Korean DMZ

Handwritten peace notes - a poignant sight at the DMZ

Tips for visiting the Korean DMZ  

Here’s some of our best tips for visiting the Korean DMZ:  

Keep an eye on the time - the shuttle bus that takes you around the DMZ has set times in each place, so make sure you don’t get left behind.

Be prepared to wait around for a long time at the beginning - waiting up to 4 hours is a standard as tour guides and local operators arrive earlier and earlier to secure tickets for their groups. 

Bring your passport - you must have your passport with you to visit the DMZ; you’d be surprised how many people forget this crucial item! 

Dress smartly - we don’t suggest wearing a 3-piece suit, but it is important to dress relatively smartly when visiting the DMZ as in the past, photos of tourists wearing ripped jeans have been used as propaganda to convince North Koreans that the outside world cannot afford regular clothing. 

There we have it, folks, a conclusive round-up of everything you need to know about visiting the Korean DMZ - one of the most fascinating, intriguing and sobering places we have ever had the pleasure of visiting.

We often get asked where we should stay in Seoul for a first-time visit, so we decided to create this comprehensive guide of where to stay in Seoul , so you will know the best neighbourhood to venture back to once you’ve completed your DMZ tour.

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Ben Lloyd is the creator, editor and one half of Ticket 4 Two Please. Our website is designed to help adventurous couples travel together on a budget around the world. We have handy destination guides from countless destinations, as well as useful seasonal job resources for summer camps and ski seasons.

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DMZ (Korea)

visit dmz korea

  • 1.1 History
  • 1.2 Landscape
  • 1.3 Flora and fauna
  • 1.4 Climate
  • 3 Fees and permits
  • 4 Get around
  • 5.1 From Seoul
  • 5.2 From Cheorwon
  • 5.3 From Yanggu
  • 5.4 From Goseong
  • 5.5 Places of interest in the South
  • 6.1 DMZ tours
  • 10.1 Lodging
  • 10.2 Camping
  • 11 Stay safe

The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) runs along the complete 248-km land border between North Korea and South Korea and is 4 km wide. This article will cover visiting only from South Korea for practical purposes. Visiting the peace village of Panmunjeom covers tours from North Korea and South Korea for that part of the DMZ.

The DMZ runs from the Yellow Sea to the west to the East Sea (Sea of Japan) with the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) directly in the middle. It runs along the northern border of the two South Korean regions of Gyeonggi and Gangwon .

The DMZ is highly militarized on both sides, and very little civilian or military activity occurs within the DMZ region. It has become a wildlife haven for animals and migratory birds, and there are calls to preserve it as a national park and sanctuary for wildlife in the event of reunification of the Korean peninsula.

The DMZ was created in 1953 at the end of the Korean War as a result of the armistice agreement between the United Nations, North Korea, China and the Soviet Union. It was agreed to create a buffer zone 4-km wide, with only a minimal military presence and patrols occurring within the DMZ. This has resulted in a zone with minimal development and thereby allowing nature to take over.

visit dmz korea

The DMZ has very varied landscape, from the rivers and estuaries of the west near Seoul , to the mountainous areas to the east in Gangwon . Nature has very much taken over and forests and grasslands exist all along the border.

Flora and fauna

  • The Asiatic black bear ( Ursus thibetanus ) weighing up to about 200 kg is endangered and can be found roaming the DMZ. Moose, leopard, Eurasian lynx, and Goral sheep are other mammals found in the zone. It has been often rumored that the Siberian Tiger lives here as well, although this seems unlikely considering the creature had disappeared from the Korean peninsula long before World War II.
  • The DMZ is a perfect spot for migratory birds to rest during winter before returning to Siberia in the summer. Black-faced spoonbills, red-crowned cranes and white-naped cranes can be seen.

The DMZ is very long, spanning two provinces in South Korea from coast to coast, and the climate will vary along it. The eastern part is especially mountainous and cold in winter.

For general climate indications, please see the climate section for Seoul .

Map

  • The most popular tour for western tourists is to Panmunjeom . That article has more details on tours specific to that destination.
  • There is a dedicated DMZ Train that leaves from Seoul station and stops at Neunggok, Munsan, Uncheon, Imjingang and Dorasan. Dorasan is 2 km from the border and it is not really possible to leave the station (although the station itself is worth visiting). The train line is supposed to extend all the way to Pyongyang , although this option won't be available for the foreseeable future.

Fees and permits

There are strong nationality restrictions for entering the DMZ area. Tours to Panmunjeom have the strongest restrictions.

Many of the destinations listed as inside the DMZ will usually require a guided tour bus with a fixed itinerary. Destinations just outside of the DMZ do not have these travel restrictions.

  • 37.89057 126.743503 3 Imjingak , Paju-si, Gyeonggi-do . Daily 09:00-18:00 . A four-storey museum and observatory 7 km south of the DMZ, with views across the Imjin River towards the DMZ and North Korea. The train line to Pyongyang passes nearby. This is the closest you can get to the DMZ without security clearance.  
  • 37.773462 126.676304 5 Odusan Unification Observatory , 659, Seongdong-ri, Tanhyeon-myeon, Paju-si, Gyeonggi-do, 경기도 파주시 탄현면 필승로 367 . The Odusan Unification Observatory near Paju gives visitors a clear of North Korea. Products from North Korea are also sold here. The observatory is closed for the months of December and January but is opened the rest of the year.  
  • 37.826506 126.433398 6 Ganghwa Peace Observatory ( 강화평화전망대 ), 6-1, Cheolsan-ri, Yangsa-myeon, Ganghwa-gun, Incheon-si, 인천 강화군 양사면 전망대로 797 . A view station inside the DMZ.  

From Cheorwon

  • 38.186184 127.287591 7 Goseokjeong Pavilion . This two-story tower was established under King Jinpyeong of the Silla Kingdom. Goseokjeong Pavilion was built above a valley, surrounded by cliffs and clear, blue waters. The battlefield conservation office here is the starting point for DMZ tours.  
  • 38.30889 127.22841 8 Woljeong-ri Station and Cheorui Samgakji observatory . This was a through-station before the division of the two Koreas, but now is the northernmost terminal station near the southern boundary of the DMZ. A large sign says: "The train wants to run", symbolizing the tragedy of national division. The observatory next to it has the capacity for 300 people at once. Through eight sets of high-quality binoculars visitors can view the DMZ, the Pyeonggang highlands and propaganda village (a village built only to brag that North Korea is enjoying high living standards), Kim Il Sung's home, and "Bloody Ridge" in North Korea.  
  • 38.182069 127.278557 9 The Second Infiltration Tunnel ( 제 2땅굴 ). Discovered in 1975, the Second Underground Tunnel is wide enough to allow 30,000 soldiers an hour to pass and even large armored vehicles. The tunnel has been developed into a tourist site so that visitors can tour the tunnel.  
  • 38.255841 127.200472 10 Labor Party Building ( 철원 노동당사 ). Built in 1946 under fund-raising and labor forced by the North Korean government, the shelled-out carcass of a building is in Soviet-type architecture with concrete building. For security reasons, only devoted communist partisans were allowed to work within the building.  
  • 38.18699 127.30055 11 Seungilgyo Bridge . A bridge that North and South Korea built together - the North completed the basic construction and two piers while the remaining parts were completely by the South. The name of the bridge is Seungilgyo after 'Seung' of the first South Korean President Syngman Rhee and 'Il' of the first North Korean President Kim Il Sung so as to commemorate the construction process. ( updated Nov 2015 )

From Yanggu

  • 38.286703 128.131113 12 Punch Bowl , Haean-myon, Yanggu-gun, Gangwon-do . A valley in 400-500 m highlands near the coast of Yanggu-gun. American reporters dubbed this basin the punch bowl. From Dolsanryeong (between the east side and coasts in Yanggu-gun), visitors can view the beautiful panorama of the sea of fog that often hangs around the punch bowl.  

visit dmz korea

  • 38.255841 127.200472 13 The Fourth Infiltration Tunnel . This is the only tunnel dug by North Korea to be discovered with motorized vehicles inside. The water flowing out from the tunnel has filtered through mountain rock, and is considered healthy enough to drink. ( updated Feb 2018 )
  • 38.296673 128.10349 14 Eulji Observatory Tower ( 을지전망대 ), Hyeon2-ri, Haean-myeon, Yanggu-gun, Gangwon-do, 강원 양구군 해안면 땅꿀로 . 1,049 m above sea level, it is one of the most bitter battlegrounds of the Korean War. From the tower, visitors can see the checkpoint and farms in North Korea and four peaks including Birobong, the highest in the Geumgangsan Diamond Mountains. ( updated Feb 2018 )

From Goseong

  • 38.586283 128.375916 15 Goseong Unification Observatory ( 고성 통일전망대 ), 457, Tongiljeonmangdae-ro, Hyeonnae-myeon, Goseong-gun, Gangwon-do 강원도 고성군 현내면 통일전망대로 457 . As the observatory closest to North Korea and the northernmost point of South Korea, more than one million people visit this area on an annual basis. Visitors can see the Geumgangsan (Diamond Mountains) and the Haegeumgang in North Korea, with the naked eye, and unlike many other observatories, photographs are allowed everywhere. In the observatory North Korean food products are for sale, and the North Korean beer is actually quite good. Several clunky North Korean-made Viewmasters give three-dimensional slide shows of idyllic scenes from North Korea, with commentary in Korean, for a ₩500 coin. The windy road to the observatory brings forth a sense of tension due to the barbed-wire entanglements along the coast and soldiers stationed on alert at a checkpoint along the approach. Tickets and passage papers have to be obtained 4 km before the first checkpoint or you will be made to turn around. The building to obtain these papers is not hard to find, it is on the left as you drive north just after the "World Mineral Museum," but the sign 100 m before it is only in Korean. Adults ₩3,000, children ₩1,500 .  
  • 38.489993 128.430001 16 Maritime Museum . At the entrance of Hwajinpo Beach, the Maritime Museum exhibits 40,000 articles of 1,500 types of shellfish, corals and fossils, some of which are very rare.  
  • 38.482603 128.425516 18 Summerhouse of Kim Il Sung ( From Hwajinpo Beach to Kim Il Sung’s residence follow the main road, cross the bridge and go straight on, then turn left at the crossroads and walk for 5 minutes ). The house is embedded in a cliff where you can have a bird's eye view of the beautiful Hwajinpo beach. There is an exhibition of Kim Il Sung's personal belongings including furniture. On the stairs up to the summerhouse, photos are displayed of Kim Jeong-il during his early days.  

Places of interest in the South

The following locations are not near the DMZ, however they may be of interest to DMZ visitors.

  • 37.536274 126.976025 1 The War Memorial of Korea ( 전쟁기념관 ), 29 Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul 서울특별시 용산구 이태원로 29 (용산동1가) . Tu-Su 09:00 - 18:00 . The original headquarters of the South Korean infantry, this is now a large museum dedicated to the Korean War over 8 exhibits.  

The easiest way to experience the DMZ is to take a tour that will organize all the permit issues for you:

  • The Panmunjeom DMZ tour is the most popular, with visitors able to visit the iconic 'peace village', and it is the closest to Seoul .
  • Gangwon Province DMZ tour in Cheorwon
  • Gangwon Province DMZ tour in Yanggu
  • Gangwon Province DMZ tour on the east coast at Goseong , about 50 km north of Sokcho .
  • The gift shop at the American Camp Bonifas near Panmunjeom has some exclusive souvenirs (such as T-shirts and mugs) to remind you of having gotten close to North Korea, or even having walked into North Korea proper in the peace village.
  • DMZ chocolate

Generally speaking, there are almost no accommodation options in the DMZ and surrounding control areas.

There are towns along the DMZ and outside of the control areas that would have hotel options. Seoul is close enough for a day trip. The eastern parts of the DMZ are more remote, and it is more challenging to find hotels.

  • 37.9325 126.72608 1 Camp Bonifas . United States Military personnel (including veterans) may apply to stay at Camp Bonifas, close to the village of Panmunjeom .  
  • 37.89842 126.73166 2 Camp Greaves . Former United States Military Camp. Close to Panmunjeom.  

There are no camping facilities in the DMZ, and it would anyway be unlikely for you to get permission from the United Nations command to do so.

Although the DMZ is considered an active war zone, and patrolled by significant armed military forces on both sides, visiting the DMZ is actually very safe as long as you follow all the rules.

The rules will vary depending on your tour and how close to the border zone you actually get. There are many restrictions as you approach the border line itself and can include not taking photographs when instructed by your military guard to not wearing torn cloths. As a generalization most of the rules are in place to protect you so as long as you follow the orders you will be safe.

Non-human threats include a great number of landmines along the border, although you will never really get an opportunity to stray into such an area.

Assuming you are on the South Korean side, you will have all the usual possibilities in South Korea:

  • Seoul - Capital of South Korea near the DMZ

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What is the DMZ in Korea and is it Safe to Visit?

South Korean JSA border guard wearing sunglass at the DMZ in Korea

As the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ in Korea) gets more and more attention in the mainstream media, we find ourselves inundated with questions, concerns and interest about our unique border, which separates us from North Korea. We, therefore, decided to create this post of frequently asked questions. We did our best to cover the main points of interest, but if we missed anything, feel free to ask us more questions in the comments below.

Table of Contents

What is the DMZ in Korea?

The Korean Demilitarized Zone is where North and South Korea come together to form the most heavily-fortified border on the planet. DMZ Korea is the most unique destination in the country and one of the most fascinating places to see in the entire world. Curious travellers from all over the globe flock to experience this mysterious destination, hoping to gain an insider understanding of North Korea – the world’s most secretive country. Rated the number one tourist activity in the nation, the DMZ in Korea offers a deep dive into history, politics, and the Korean War.

Can you visit the DMZ in South Korea?

Not only can you visit the DMZ in Korea, but this is, in fact, a must! An estimated 1.2 million visitors come to this historic area each year. You will only be allowed to go on one of the official DMZ tours led by a licensed tour guide. Why? Due to its unique position as a heavily-guarded border, there are many rules to abide by in order to help maintain peace and stability. From how many people are allowed to enter at once to what time of day you can visit, the tours follow strict regulations imposed by the United Nations. Going on a certified tour is also the best way to learn all that is noteworthy in a safe and responsible manner.

What does DMZ stand for in Korea?

The DMZ sign post outside the DMZ theatre

The acronym “DMZ” means Demilitarized Zone. As its name suggests, it is a buffer zone between North and South Korea where no military personnel, installations or activities are allowed. It is also often regarded as a stretch of no man’s land and is roughly 4 KM wide. Its purpose is to preserve the peace between both sides and avoid military confrontations. The only exception to this rule is the Joint Security Area (JSA), where troops from both sides secure an area for peaceful talks and negotiation between the leaders. The best way to think of the DMZ is as a neutral ground where the North and South can communicate.

Is the DMZ in Korea considered a combat zone?

While South Korea’s DMZ comes as close to a combat zone as can be, there is usually no active military action. In other words, you hopefully will not see any shooting or other displays of power. In fact, the Korean Demilitarized Zone’s primary purpose is to foster peace, demonstrating that safety can be achieved without having to actively exhibit force. The zone does have some very particular aspects to it. For example, the sand along the fence is kept very neatly groomed so that South Korean and American soldiers can see whether there have been any infiltration attempts by North Korean soldiers.

How far is the DMZ from Seoul?

A sign at Imjingak shows that the distance to Seoul is 53 km, while Kaesong is just 22 km away.

The South Korean DMZ is located around 50 kilometers in distance from Seoul (38 kilometers from Pyongyang). The journey takes about 60-90 minutes, depending on where you depart from in the city and the current traffic conditions on the day. To get there, you need to pass through several military-controlled security checkpoints. Your tour guide will request your passport, and you will be required to present it to a soldier for inspection.

Does the 38th parallel still exist?

The name “38th parallel” pertains to the line dividing North from South Korea during World War II. You can also see it being referred to as “latitude 38° N.” The line was crafted according to the Potsdam Conference in July of 1945 by US military planners. The 38th parallel helped mark the Japanese surrender to the US on one side and the USSR on the other. Today, the DMZ intersects the 38th parallel but does not follow it according to the post-war division. The west side of the Korean Demilitarized zone falls by the South end of the parallel, and the DMZ’s east end reaches the parallel to the North.

So why is Korea still divided?

The end of World War II was immediately followed by the Cold War, where the North under Kim-II-Sung turned towards a communist regime, and the South, led by Syngman Rhee, became a United States ally. Due to their opposing choices, the two countries have remained separate.

What is the best DMZ tour?

At the DMZ Exhibition Hall with one of VIP Travel's tour guides

The best way to choose between your options is to understand the differences. A half day DMZ tour visits all the main spots, including Imjingak Park, The Bridge of Freedom, The 3rd Infiltration Tunnel, The DMZ Theater & Exhibition Hall, Dora Observatory and Dorasan Station. While a full day DMZ JSA tour, also visits the Joint Security Area (JSA) in the afternoon.

It’s important to note that entering the JSA comes with further restrictions. Children need to be 12 years or older (no exceptions), there are limited numbers of people allowed to visit each day (controlled by UN Command), and bookings need to be placed at least 72 hours in advance.

Therefore if you wish to visit with younger children, have a busy schedule, or need to book on short notice, you should choose the half day option. If you wish to extend your visit to enter the JSA in the afternoon, then the full-day option is for you.

How long is the DMZ tour?

You have two options when it comes to the length of your tour. You can either opt for the half-day option or the full-day option. The Half Day DMZ tour is available at 8 AM and 11 AM, from Tuesday through Sunday. The duration is a total of six hours.

The full-day DMZ JSA tour is available Tuesday through Saturday and leaves at 8 AM. The duration of this tour is nine hours. Don’t forget to book at least 72 hours in advance so your tour leader can obtain the necessary permission for your entrance from UN Command.

Is the DMZ safe to visit?

On a DMZ tour looking across the border at Panmungak

While the DMZ in Korea is considered “the world’s most dangerous border,” there is no threat to civilians or visitors. Although still an active war zone, it has become a place of sustainable peace and therefore, the DMZ is safe to visit. The only aspect that may still appear dangerous is that numerous troops, both from the North, South, and the United States, protect the territory and can be seen actively patrolling the region. If you’re considering a tour of the DMZ , there is absolutely nothing to worry about as guided visits are permitted and help boost the country’s tourism economy.

Can you cross the Korean DMZ?

United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission Conference Room

In short: no, the Demilitarized Zone in Korea may not be crossed. This applies both to soldiers and visitors. While North and South Korea share this border, the two countries have different immigration and travel policies. The North is also notorious for its restrictions on travel, so venturing fully inside North Korea will need additional visa arrangements and paperwork.

What you can do, however, is cross the Military Demarcation Line, which is the actual border between the two countries. The line is located inside the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission (UNCMAC) building. In this case, you will technically be on North Korean territory.

Are there tigers in the DMZ?

Nature flourishing inside the demilitarized zone with green grasses, trees and streams

You may not know this about the Demilitarized Zone in Korea, but aside from being a key military point, the geographical region itself is incredibly biodiverse! There have been sightings of the endangered Siberian tiger within the zone. While most visitors flock here to learn about history and politics, some nature-enthusiasts are enticed by the possibility of spotting the rare cat. During the Korean War, a lot of farmland was abandoned due to the military conflict, so nature took over. The DMZ in Korea is now the home to numerous species of exotic birds, including white-naped and red-crowned cranes and the Amur leopard.

What do you wear to a DMZ tour?

Someone is posing in front of a sign at the Third Tunnel of Aggression during our DMZ tour from Seoul.

There is no specific dress code when visiting the DMZ , except for the Joint Security Area (JSA), which does have a strict dress code . The reason for these rules is that you are visiting an important geopolitical area, and by dressing appropriately, you show respect. Furthermore, there have been attempts to use photos of casually dressed tourists to spread propaganda in North Korea by suggesting that the rest of the world is poor.

If visiting the JSA, you will not be allowed in with ripped jeans, tank tops, sleeveless shirts, or T-shirts without a collar. Shorts and miniskirts are also a no-no. Please refrain from wearing any clothing that may have military print on it or any attire that shows a national flag or spells out nationality. Workout clothes, which may be a bit of a surprise, aren’t allowed either, even though you’re donning a new pair of Fila sweatpants. 

Now, on the topic of what you can wear to the JSA – you are more than welcome to wear comfortable attire, such as shirts, blouses, slacks, jeans, a knee-length dress with a cardigan or long sleeves. You can choose loafers, moccasins, or dressier sneakers for shoes, but stay away from sandals.

Can South Koreans go to North Korea?

North Korea is notorious for its secrecy and tight travel restrictions. Currently, South Koreans are allowed to visit the DMZ as a part of an organized excursion. During the Korean War, many families were separated from loved ones who are now allowed to reunite at Mount Kumgang, a resort close to the shared border. Otherwise, for a South Korean citizen to travel North, they would need to receive an official letter of invitation from North Korea’s government. In January 2020, CNN reported that North Korea is considering new rules to let their neighbours travel independently for tourism. That plan, however, is still in development.

Can you take pictures at the DMZ?

Due to safety policies, you need to be mindful of where you can and cannot take photos at the DMZ in Korea. For the most part, the DMZ is safe for photos, while the JSA has some strict rules to follow. For example, if visiting the JSA, you will be given a waiver to sign upon entering the DMZ, which includes instructions on photography.

The waiver also states that you bear responsibility for yourself during the tour in case of an injury, accident, or even death. Legally, the paperwork needs to convey these things, but this should not worry you because you will be accompanied by a tour guide who has led these groups hundreds of times. After all, this is the number 1 rated activity in South Korea!

The Third Infiltration Tunnel is an area that explicitly prohibits taking photos. You will be asked to leave your phone and camera in a locker during your visit, free of charge. The other restriction to bear in mind is to never, under any circumstance, take photos of North Korean border guards, which is also prohibited. Otherwise, unless advised against, you are free to take pictures inside the DMZ. If you have any questions or are unsure, it’s best to ask your tour guide.

Why do South Korean soldiers wear sunglasses?

Visitors to the DMZ in Korea have noticed that the South Korean border guards wear sunglasses. Is this a fashion statement? Not exactly. The mandatory military attire for a South Korean border guard includes a helmet for protection and a pair of dark sunglasses. The reason is that as the nature of the soldiers’ work requires them to be even-keeled in all situations, the sunglasses help them conceal any emotion that may become evident. In other words, the sunglasses are a small accessory that helps South Korean soldiers achieve a look of neutrality without their faces giving away hints of information.

What is the Joint Security Area?

Looking at Panmungak from Freedom House during our DMZ JSA tour

The Joint Security Area (JSA) is a territory within the Demilitarized Zone. Also known as Panmunjom or the Truce Village, this is one of the most exciting places to visit inside the DMZ in Korea. Here, you will see opposing soldiers stand face-to-face! The role of the JSA is to serve as a neutral place for negotiation between the two nations, supported by the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission (UNCMAC).

The JSA is heavily regulated. Remember to make reservations 72 hours in advance, take note of the dress code and the youngest person in your group needs to be 12-years-old or above.

How many landmines are in the DMZ?

A warning sign about landmines at the DMZ

According to the Korea Times , there are one million landmines hidden inside the DMZ. They were installed during the Korean War, between 1950-1953. In 2018, efforts began to remove landmines from both sides of the DMZ. While there have been a few accidents, mainly in the areas outside of the DMZ, you don’t need to worry about your visit. The entire region of the Korean Demilitarized Zone has been secured and is safe for tourism.

What can you do at DMZ Korea?

People are crossing the Bridge of Freedom at Imjingak. In the background, you can see the railway bridge that connects with Freedom Bridge.

The South Korea DMZ has plenty of activities for those looking to understand geopolitics and history. For example, on a typical DMZ trip, you will see Imjingak Park, which was built as a safe space where the newly arrived refugees from North Korea received consolation. You’ll pass by the Unification Pond, the design of which is modelled after the shape of the Korean peninsula. This is a beautiful spot to take photos! Right next to the pond, you’ll find Peace Bell.

You will have the chance to literally walk through history as you cross the Bridge of Freedom, erected in 1953 and used to liberate 12,773 prisoners! Another sight not to be missed is the Third Infiltration Tunnel. Exploring the inside of the tunnel is arguably one of the most exciting parts of the tour. The tunnel is 1,635 meters-long, at two meters in height and two wide. It was discovered by South Korea in 1978. The original purpose of the tunnel was to allow the North to spy into the enemy camp.

Dorasan (Dora) Observatory will give you a fantastic bird’s eye view of the Korean DMZ, and on a clear day, you can catch an unhindered glimpse into the mysterious North. For the history buffs, the DMZ Exhibition Hall and DMZ Theater hold years worth of fascinating facts, documents, and photos.

Who owns the DMZ in Korea?

A soldier standing guard in front of the Bridge of No Return facing North

The DMZ zone in Korea is neutral territory and therefore isn’t owned by either side. If you’re wondering who governs the DMZ, The United States helps patrol the area according to the MDL (Military Demarcation Line), joined by troops from each of the two Koreas. Both troops have specific parameters that allow them to patrol without stepping on enemy territory. The middle of the DMZ has two kilometres on each end that are free of all military personnel. Neither side is allowed to cross the MDL. Doing so will be perceived as an act of aggression and lead to a conflict.

Where did Trump and Kim Jong-un meet at the DMZ?

President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un shake hands across the border at the DMZ in Korea

In 2019, the United States President Donald Trump met Kim Jong-un , North Korea’s Supreme leader, at a section of the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) between Freedom House and Panmungak. This section of the MDL is located inside the Joint Security Area of the Demilitarized Zone in Korea. During the meeting, Kim invited Trump to briefly cross over to North Korean soil, where they shook hands and took photos. After stepping back into South Korean territory, the two leaders were greeted by South Korea’s President Moon Jae-In.

How wide is the DMZ?

The DMZ in Korea is about 4 km wide and 238 km long. According to recent satellite research by Chungnam National University in 2017, the area of the DMZ comprises 904 km 2 . The lines were originally drawn at the end of the Korean War in 1953, where the forces of each nation were pulled back by two kilometres from the ceasefire line.

How many US troops are stationed in the Korean DMZ?

Entering Camp Bonifas on our JSA tour

On the South Korean side of the JSA, military support is provided by the United Nations Command Security Battalion. The battalion includes about 650 troops, of which the United States troops make up for 10%, and local South Korean forces comprise the remaining 90%. The battalion guards their assigned premises 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Have there been any incidents at the DMZ?

As the area is inherently an active war zone that separates two opposing nations, there have been a few DMZ incidents over the years. The “Axe Murder Incident” is perhaps the most famous. On August 18th, 1976, two United States Army officers were killed by North Korean forces. General Arthur Bonifas and First Lieutenant Mark Barrett were killed with an axe at the JSA. The pair were cutting down a tree within the Joint Security Area when a conflict arose, ultimately leading to their fatal end.

A more recent incident at the DMZ that made international media coverage pertains to Oh Chong Song – a North Korean soldier who tried to defect and escape the country on November 13, 2017. The soldier drove a green jeep and smashed right through a military checkpoint. He was shot five times but managed to survive.

When was the Korean War?

The Korean War was fought between 1950 and 1953, although it is technically still ongoing as no formal treaty ending the war has yet been signed. The Korean War officially started on the 25th of June 1950 after North Korea invaded South Korea under the leadership of Kim Il-sung. The fighting continued until the war was paused on the 27th July 1953 by delegates from both sides signing the Korean Armistice Agreement at Panmunjom.

How long was the Korean War?

As there is yet to be a formal treaty signed to end the Korean War between South and North Korea, both sides are still “on paper” technically at war. This means that so far the war has lasted for more than 7 decades, although the main confrontation lasted for 3 years between 1950 and 1953.

Why is the DMZ considered by many to be one of the most dangerous places in the world?

Even today, DMZ Korea is still considered to be an extremely dangerous and hazardous place. Many of the landmines installed during the 1950s are still active, and every few years, there is an incident of a soldier or civilian setting one-off or coming into contact with an unexploded mine. The border between North and South Korea is still the most heavily fortified globally, and open fire across it still occurs from time to time. In addition, there have been many DMZ incidents, including some quite recently.

When did Korea split?

The Korean Peninsula was divided in two at the 38th degree parallel line after the defeat of Japan in World War 2. The United States had set out to define an American Occupation Zone on August 10th, 1945. Surprisingly, the Soviet Union immediately agreed to the division line set forth by the Americans on August 17th, 1945. This was just short of 5 years before the onset of the Korean War in 1950.

How many people died in the Korean War?

It is estimated that roughly 1-5 million people, including military personnel and civilians, died during the Korean War from 1950-1953. However, official government records of confirmed deaths are, of course, much lower. Getting an accurate number is quite challenging as the remains of many civilians and military personnel are still missing. According to research published in 2020 by Statista , confirmed military deaths include 137,899 South Korean, 520,000 North Korean, 116,000 Chinese and 40,670 United Nations soldiers.

Can children visit the Korea DMZ?

In general, yes. For most areas accessible to visitors of the DMZ, it is considered safe for children to be accompanied by a parent or guardian. However, particular sites that are more politically sensitive or pose a danger and are therefore not appropriate for young children do have age restrictions for entry. Therefore it is essential to check your tour details carefully beforehand for any age restrictions or contact your tour company in advance. As UN Command sets these rules, they are therefore not negotiable.

What else would you like to know?

Feel free to ask us any questions you have about the DMZ in Korea, and we’ll do our best to answer them for you in the comments below.

Top 41+ Unique Things to Do in Seoul for the Most Fun

16+ best spots for glamping & camping in korea, 7 thoughts on “what is the dmz in korea and is it safe to visit”.

When did South Korea start allowing tours of the DMZ?

What are food varities available in this tour ? is there is proper Vegetarian dishes available ? Which is best Tour to book

With the military exercises by North and South Korea, can one visit the DMZ in December of this year? I had a tour, but they canceled without explanation. Thank you.

I can’t believe there are civilian tours of the DMZ. We’re (US) standing on the wall for these people and they treat it like a fun afternoon. Kamala Harris should move to North Korea. I was stationed in Seoul 76-78. I went up there once to inspect the record keeping. It was silent.

When I was in South Korea in April this year the JSA was closed due to COVID. Has it reopened to tours?

Are there any troops from the United States there now?

No, There has a Korea Army in DMZ Area. US troops are located inside Panmunjeom (JSA) Area.

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June 14, 2024 12:45 PM

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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and first lady Marty Kemp are pictured with U.S. military personnel at the DMZ on Wed., June 13, 2024.

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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp left Monday on a trip to Asia — his sixth overseas since taking office in 2019 —  to focus on economic partnerships for Georgia. 

He and first lady Marty Kemp arrived in Korea on Wednesday as part of 15-person delegation and will return to Atlanta next week.

The economic development mission to the Republic of Korea is focused on visiting current Korean businesses that operate in Georgia and luring new ones to the state. Planned visits include meetings with LG Group, SK Group, Hanwha Qcells and CJ Foodville, the Associated Press reported .

AP also reported that the trip included a reception in conjunction with Hyundai Motor Group but no meetings with political or cultural leaders.

Jessica Atwell, a spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, told AP the reception will be “an opportunity to bring many partners together in one place to honor the partnerships we have cultivated over nearly four decades.”

The Kemps also made their way to the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which runs across the Korean Peninsula and was established in 1953 under the provisions of the Korean Armistice Agreement.

"For decades the Korean Demilitarized Zone has served as a boundary between democracy and tyranny," Kemp said in a statement released by his office . "It was truly humbling to reflect on the service, sacrifice, and legacy of the thousands of Koreans and Americans who fought and died to preserve the freedoms of the Korean people. Our visit is also a powerful reminder of America’s responsibility to stand with our allies in championing freedom and liberty around the world, and the strong partnership our state and nation enjoy with the Republic of Korea."

In a video from the DMZ, the Kemps are pictured on a balcony overlooking the zone as he notes that the South Korean and North Korean flags are just 1,800 meters apart.

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GPB News provides in-depth coverage of issues and stories that affect individuals and communities in Georgia and surrounding southeastern states. Stand with the facts.

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Gov. Brian Kemp (center) with officials from Hyundai Motor Group at the 2022 groundbreaking of the Korean automaker’s electric vehicle manufacturing plant in Bryan County. (Capitol Beat News)

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Gov. Brian Kemp and Marty Kemp are leading a trade mission to the Republic of Korea. 

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A factory building is under construction at Hyundai's first U.S. plant for manufacturing electric vehicles, Oct. 25, 2023, in Ellabell, Ga. On Monday, June 3, 2024, a Georgia conservation group filed notice of its intent to sue two U.S. government agencies, saying they failed to properly assess the environmental impacts of the $7.6 billion electric vehicle and battery plant Hyundai is building outside Savannah, Ga.

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North Korea building roads and walls inside DMZ, report says

What's believed to be loudspeakers at the top of a hill on the North Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas, on Tuesday.

North Korea's military has been building roads and walls inside the Demilitarized Zone that separates it from the South, the Yonhap news agency reported Saturday.

The report follows an incident last week when South Korean forces fired warning shots after North Korean soldiers briefly crossed the MDL.

South Korean authorities said it was likely accidental, and Yonhap quoted a military spokesman as saying some of the North Koreans were carrying work tools.

"Recently, the North Korean military has been erecting walls, digging the ground and constructing roads in some areas between the Military Demarcation Line and the Northern Limit Line in the DMZ," the military source said, according to Yonhap on Saturday.

It was not clear what they were building, the source told the news agency.

When asked about the report, the South Korean military said in a statement that it was "closely tracking and monitoring the activities of the North Korean military," and that "further analysis is required."

It said it could not share the South Korean response to these actions "to ensure the safety of the personnel proceeding with an operation," without offering further details.

South Korea's spy agency said this week that it had detected signs that North Korea was demolishing sections of a railway line connecting the two countries.

That followed an escalation in the propaganda war between the two Koreas.

North Korea sent more than a thousand balloons carrying trash into the South, describing them as retaliation for the propaganda balloons sent the other way by anti-Pyongyang activists.

Then, South Korea resumed blasting K-pop songs and news broadcasts at the North, using loudspeakers installed at the border.

The resumption of the loudspeaker campaign prompted Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, to threaten an unspecified "new countermeasure."

North Korea strictly controls the flow of information inside its borders, and is extremely sensitive about its people gaining access to South Korean content, especially pop culture.

It has previously threatened artillery strikes against the South Korean loudspeakers — a psychological warfare tactic that dates back to the 1950-53 Korean War.

What's believed to be loudspeakers at the top of a hill on the North Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas, on Tuesday.  | YONHAP / via AFP-JIJI

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North Korean soldiers build a strongpoint in the Demilitarized Zone, in this file photo taken from a South Korean observation tower in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, June 4. Yonhap

North Korea's military has been carrying out unexplained construction inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, according to a military source Saturday.

"Recently, the North Korean military has been erecting walls, digging up the ground and constructing roads in some areas between the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) and the Northern Limit Line in the DMZ," the source said.

The source added it was unclear whether these activities indicate an intention to build a long wall north of the MDL or simply to establish defensive structures at specific points.

Earlier this week, about 20 North Korean soldiers briefly crossed the inter-Korean land border before going back to the North's side after the South's military fired warning shots amid heightened tensions over Pyongyang sending trash-filled balloons over the border.

Military watchers speculate the incident could be related to the North's wall construction. At the time of the border incursion, the North Korean soldiers were carrying work tools, such as pickaxes and shovels.

The border crossing came amid heightened cross-border tensions set off by the North's recent balloon campaign.

The MDL bisects the DMZ, which has served as a buffer zone between the two Koreas since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty. (Yonhap)

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South Korean troops fire warning shots after North Korean soldiers cross border

Tensions between South and North Korea have escalated sharply in recent days, with both sides engaging in provocative actions, including North Korea's launch of hundreds of trash-filled balloons across the border and South Korea's decision to resume anti-North Korea propaganda broadcasts via loudspeakers.

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean soldiers fired warning shots after North Korean troops briefly violated the tense border earlier this week, South Korea’s military said Tuesday, as the rivals are embroiled in Cold War-style campaigns like  balloon launches  and  propaganda broadcasts .

Bloodshed and violent confrontations have occasionally occurred at the Koreas’ heavily fortified border, called the Demilitarized Zone . While Sunday’s incident happened amid simmering tensions between the two Koreas, observers say it is unlikely to develop into another source of animosity as South Korea believes the North Koreans did not deliberately commit the border intrusion and North Korea also did not return fire.

At 12:30 p.m. on Sunday (11:30 p.m. Saturday ET), some North Korean soldiers who were engaged in unspecified work on the northern side of the border crossed the military demarcation line that bisects the two countries, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

Those North Korean soldiers carrying construction tools — some of them armed — immediately returned to their territory after South Korea’s military fired warning shots and issued warning broadcasts, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said. It said North Korea had not conducted any other suspicious activities.

South Korea’s military has assessed that the North Korean soldiers did not appear to have intentionally crossed the border because the site is a wooded area and MDL signs there were not clearly visible, Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesperson Lee Sung Joon told reporters.

Lee gave no further details. But South Korean media reports said that about 20 to 30 North Korean soldiers had entered South Korean territory about 165 feet after they likely lost their way. The reports said most of the North Korean soldiers were carrying pickaxes and other construction tools.

The 2155-mile-long, 2.5-mile-wide DMZ is the world’s most heavily armed border. An estimated 2 million mines are peppered inside and near the border, which is also guarded by barbed wire fences, tank traps and combat troops on both sides. It’s a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

On Sunday, South Korea resumed anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts from its border loudspeakers in response to the North’s recent launches of balloons carrying manure and rubbish across the border. South Korea said North Korea has installed its own border loudspeakers in response but has not turned them on yet.

North Korea has said its balloon campaign was in response to South Korean activists’ launches of their own balloons to drop propaganda leaflets critical of leader Kim Jong Un ’s authoritarian rule, USB sticks with K-pop songs and South Korean drama shows , and other items in North Korea.

North Korea is extremely sensitive to any outside criticism of its political system, as most of its 26 million people have no official access to foreign news. On Sunday night, Kim’s sister and senior official, Kim Yo Jong , warned of “a new response” if South Korea continued its loudspeaker broadcasts and refused to stop civilian leafletting campaigns.

The tit-for-tat over speakers and balloons — both Cold War-style psychological warfare — has deepened tensions between the Koreas as talks over the North’s nuclear ambitions have remained stalled for years.

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Why North Korea Launched Another Salvo of Trash Balloons Toward the South

The unusual offensive, across the world’s most heavily fortified border, is a revival of a Cold War-era tactic. The South is responding by blasting K-pop.

Two balloons, tied to a package, hovering very close to the surface of a large body of water.

By Choe Sang-Hun

Reporting from Seoul

Cold War-era tactics are in vogue again at the world’s most heavily armed border.

In recent days, North Korea has sent roughly 1,300 balloon carrying plastic bags full of cigarette butts, scraps of used paper and cloth, and other trash toward the Demilitarized Zone that separates it from South Korea. Many have crossed into South Korean airspace, ​where their timers released their filthy payload.

The most recent salvo came overnight Saturday, when 80 of the 330 or so balloons wafted into South Korea.

So far, the South Korean authorities have found “nothing hazardous” in the materials dumped by the North. The South’s military dismissed initial reports that the North Korean balloons were carrying human waste, but it did note that some of the trash appeared to be compost.

The response from the South is also unusual. It is turning on its loudspeakers on the border to bombard North Korea with K-pop. In the past, the North and South had exchanged rocket and artillery fire in a spat over the speakers, a sign the hostilities could escalate further.

Amid the rising tensions, the United States flew a long-range B-1B bomber over the Korean Peninsula on Wednesday, conducting its first precision-guided bombing drill with South Korea in seven years as a warning against North Korean provocation.

This is not the first time the two countries have flown balloons across the border. Decades ago, the two Korean militaries engaged in a propaganda battle that petered out with the end of the Cold War.

North Korea has said it was provoked by defectors living in South Korea, who have again started sending propaganda balloons across the inter-Korean border. The North bristled at the balloons because they were loaded with leaflets criticizing its leader, Kim Jong-un, and USB sticks holding South Korean pop songs and dramas, cultural products Mr. Kim has found so threatening that he once called them a “ vicious cancer .”

Here’s what to know about the unusual offensive between the two Koreas.

It has been unsettling but not disruptive.

​When South Korea reports objects launched from North Korea, they are usually rockets carrying satellites or ballistic missiles of a kind the North says is capable of delivering nuclear warheads. But the North’s actions in recent weeks have been a revival of a Cold War era tactic: propaganda balloons as psychological warfare.

The first round of North-to-South balloons triggered some confusion and public complaints when the government mistakenly warned people near the border of an “air raid.”

Mostly South Koreans remained calm, treating the episode as little more than irritating antics from the North. On social media, people posted pictures of the North Korean balloons in trees, on farmland or on urban side streets bursting with trash. One plastic bag dropped from a balloon was heavy enough to destroy the windshield of a parked car, according to photos carried by local news media.

But there was an ominous undertone when South Korea urged people not to touch the balloons and to report them to the authorities immediately. North Korea is known to hold large stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons, which its agents once used to assassinate Mr. Kim’s estranged half brother, Kim Jong-nam.

Photos and video footage released by the South Korean military showed officers clad in biohazard and bomb-disposal gear inspecting the trash piles.

The balloon rivalry goes back decades.

During the Cold War, North and South Korea waged psychological warfare. They tried to influence each other’s citizens with shortwave radio broadcasts full of propaganda. Along the DMZ, loudspeakers bombarded rival soldiers day and night with propaganda songs. Billboards urged the soldiers to defect to a “people’s paradise” in the North or to the “free and democratic” South.

And the two Koreas launched leaflet-laden balloons into each other’s airspace. Millions of such leaflets vilifying the other side’s government were scattered over the Korean Peninsula, material that both Koreas banned their people from reading or keeping. In the South, the police rewarded children with pencils and other school supplies when they found the leaflets in the hills and reported them.

But until fairly recently, balloons from North Korea seldom carried common trash.

A court decision allowed the balloons to fly again.

By the 1990s, it was clear that the North’s propaganda was losing its relevance as the South’s economy pulled ahead. The South had become a vibrant democracy and a global export powerhouse, while the North suffered chronic food shortages and relied on a personality cult and a total information blackout to control its people.

When their leaders held the first inter-Korean summit meeting in 2000, the two Koreas agreed to end government-sponsored efforts to influence each other’s citizens. But North Korean defectors and conservative and Christian activists in the South carried on the information war , sending balloons laden with mini-Bibles, transistor radios, household medicine, USB drives containing K-pop and drama, and leaflets that called Mr. Kim a “pig.”

To them, their payloads contained “truth” and “freedom of expression” that would help awaken North Koreans from their government’s brainwashing. To Pyongyang, they were nothing more than political “filth,” and North Korean leaders vowed to retaliate in kind.

Then the government in Seoul enacted a law that banned the sending of leaflets to the North, saying they did little more than provoke Pyongyang. But a few years later, in 2023, a court ruled the law unconstitutional, and the activists resumed launching balloons in recent weeks.

“We have tried something they have always been doing, but I cannot understand why they are making a fuss as if they were hit by a shower of bullets,” Kim Yo-jong, Mr. Kim’s sister and spokeswoman, said last month. “If they experience how unpleasant the feeling of picking up filth is and how tired it is, they will know that it is not easy to dare talk about freedom of expression.”

It is unclear what effect the leaflets have had.

Lee Min-bok, a soft-spoken North Korean defector living in the South, began sending balloons to the North in 2005. There have since been scores of copycat “ balloon warriors ” in the South.

They ​argue that the best way to free North Korean people from Mr. Kim’s totalitarian regime is to weaken its information blackout​. And the best way to do that, they say, is by infiltrating the country with outside news and entertainment.

Mr. Kim has enacted laws and beefed up security along the border with China to prevent outside culture from seeping into his country. It remains unclear how many North Koreans have been exposed to material scattered by balloons from the South.

To Yang Moo-jin, president of the Seoul-based University of North Korean Studies​, the balloons were a useless and “anachronistic remnant of the Cold War.” They have done little to improve the human rights condition in the North, he said, while the trash balloons from the North posed a threat in South Korean airspace busy with international air traffic.

The South suspended an accord with the North.

Last Sunday, North Korea warned it would scatter “wastepaper and rubbish hundreds times” more than the leaflets and other items from the South. But activists in the South were not been deterred.

Last week, South Korea suspended an agreement signed with North Korea in 2018 that called for the two Koreas to cease all hostile activities, such as military drills and reconnaissance flights, along their border. North Korea had already suspended the accord last year, calling it a “mere scrap of paper.”

South Korea said that it would “revive all military activities” restricted under the 2018 agreement, until “inter-Korean mutual trust is restored.”

On Thursday, President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea called North Korea “the darkest place on earth” and its trash balloons “despicable provocation.”

Choe Sang-Hun is the lead reporter for The Times in Seoul, covering South and North Korea. More about Choe Sang-Hun

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COMMENTS

  1. How To Visit Korean DMZ (Demilitarized Zone)

    The Korean DMZ Peace Train is a tourist train that leaves Seoul and goes to the DMZ. KORAIL runs this train route. There are three routes that the train takes: the Dorasan Security Tour, the Yeoncheon Dreaming Tour, and the Cheorwon Security Tour. Each tour package is a one-day tour that goes both ways.

  2. How to visit the Korean Demilitarized Zone

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  4. How to Tour the DMZ from Seoul [2024]

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  5. Beyond the Fence: How to Choose Your Korea DMZ Tour [2024]

    Learn how to choose the best Korea DMZ tour for your interests and budget from various options, including half-day, full-day, and private tours. Compare the places visited, pick-up and drop-off locations, and add-on activities on each tour.

  6. How to Visit North Korea's DMZ Border (Updated 2023)

    To the left corner (not pictured) is a barricade to the bridge. The Freedom Bridge connects North and South Korea, though a massive barricade blocks entry to the connecting point over the river. If the two sides are ever connected, this bridge could be used to enter and exit North Korea. Step 2. Select a tour.

  7. How To Visit Korea's JSA & The DMZ Tour (Guide & Tips)

    The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is a captivating and historically significant area that stretches across the Korean Peninsula, separating North and South Korea. A visit to the DMZ offers a unique opportunity to understand the geopolitical dynamics and experience the remnants of the Korean War.

  8. How to Visit the Korean DMZ

    How to Get to the DMZ. The only way to visit the DMZ is on a tour. Viator alone lists 18 different tours from which travelers can choose. Tours typically depart from Seoul, with many offering hotel pickups and dropoff service. The area is about an hour or so drive from Seoul. A handful of trains run from Seoul to Dorason Station within the DMZ ...

  9. DMZ, Seoul

    Established in 1953 after the Korean War, the DMZ includes key sites such as the Freedom Bridge, the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel, Imjingak Park, the DMZ Museum, and Dora Observatory. Visit the DMZ from Seoul on a morning or afternoon half-day tour, with an optional upgrade to a full-day tour that also visits the suspension bridge....

  10. From Seoul: DMZ, 3rd Tunnel & Suspension Bridge Guided Tour

    Travel to a tunnel dug by North Korea, see observatories and visit the unification villages in the DMZ. Move to Imjingak and drop by 3 stops - Freedom Bridge, Mangbaedan Altar, and a steam locomotive that was destroyed during the Korean war. Board a bus with your guide (or group) and continue on to the DMZ. Visit three different places within ...

  11. DMZ Half Day Guided Tour from Seoul

    US$ 36.50. Select options. Please make sure to bring the passport with you to enter the DMZ. Having a DMZ Experience while in Korea is the ultimate way to learn about both the North and South. Don't miss the opportunity to visit the historic and mysterious Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea on our DMZ Half Day tour from Seoul!

  12. Taking A Korea DMZ Tour From Seoul

    The DMZ tour from Seoul (half day) including Dora Observatory, Imjingak Park, Tunnel 3 and the last train station. It runs every day. The DMZ tour from Seoul ( full-day) including the stops previously mentioned and the JSA (Joint Security Area). This is the only place you can see North and South Korea soldiers standing face-to-face.

  13. Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) Half-Day Tour from Seoul 2024

    Tour the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) with a knowledgeable guide who shares the history and highlights of this important strip of land that separates North and South Korea. Established in 1953 after the Korean War, the DMZ includes key sites such as the Freedom Bridge, the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel, Imjingak Park, the DMZ Museum, and Dora Observatory. Visit the DMZ from Seoul on a morning or ...

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  19. DMZ Tour in Gyeonggi-do

    Gallery. US$ 37.45. Select options. Learn more about the history of the Korean War and the Cold War on this educational guided DMZ tour. Places such as Imjingak Park, the Freedom Bridge, the Third Infiltration Tunnel, and the DMZ Exhibition Hall will be visited. Have a bird's eye view of North Korea through the binoculars located on top of ...

  20. What is the DMZ in Korea & is it Safe to Visit?

    The acronym "DMZ" means Demilitarized Zone. As its name suggests, it is a buffer zone between North and South Korea where no military personnel, installations or activities are allowed. It is also often regarded as a stretch of no man's land and is roughly 4 KM wide.

  21. Visiting the DMZ : r/koreatravel

    This was quite a lovely walk, with options to go up to a waterfall or further to a Buddhist temple. After lunch, we went into the DMZ visiting the third invasion tunnel, a quick video on the DMZ history, Dora observatory, and a quick stop to the Unification Village - all up taking just under 3 hours.

  22. South Korea fired warning shots after North's troops ...

    The 160-mile demilitarized zone (DMZ) dividing North and South Korea is one of the world's most heavily armed borders. Lined by high fences and filled with landmines, it is largely empty of ...

  23. Gov. Kemp Tours the Korean Demilitarized Zone

    Atlanta, GA - On the first day of their economic development mission to the Republic of Korea, Governor Brian P. Kemp was joined by First Lady Marty Kemp in touring the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).. Intersecting the 38th parallel north, the DMZ runs across the Korean Peninsula and was established in 1953 under the provisions of the Korean Armistice Agreement.

  24. Gov. Kemp visits Korea, DMZ: '1,800 meters apart'

    Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp left Monday on a trip to Asia — his sixth overseas since taking office in 2019 — to focus on economic partnerships for Georgia. The Kemps' trip also included a visit to the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which runs across the Korean Peninsula and was established in 1953 under the provisions of the Korean Armistice Agreement.

  25. North Korea building roads and walls inside DMZ, report says

    Jun 15, 2024. Seoul -. North Korea's military has been building roads and walls inside the Demilitarized Zone that separates it from the South, the Yonhap news agency reported Saturday. The ...

  26. Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) Tour from Seoul 2024

    Travel to the Korean Demilitarized Zone to see the border that divides North and South Korea on this guided adventure from Seoul. Learn about the troubled history of the country, from the time of the Korean War to modern day. Visit Imjingak Park, the Freedom Bridge, the Third Infiltration Tunnel and the DMZ Museum. Plus, look across the DMZ into North Korea from the Dora Observatory. Lunch (if ...

  27. North Korean military's construction activities spotted inside DMZ

    North Korea's military has been carrying out unexplained construction activities inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas, according to a military source Saturday.

  28. South Korean troops fire warning shots after North Korean soldiers

    By The Associated Press. SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean soldiers fired warning shots after North Korean troops briefly violated the tense border earlier this week, South Korea's military ...

  29. Why Did North Korea Launch More Trash Balloons?

    Why North Korea Launched Another Salvo of Trash Balloons Toward the South. The unusual offensive, across the world's most heavily fortified border, is a revival of a Cold War-era tactic. The ...