Welcome to our Sunday Spotlight feature in which one of our favorite travel bloggers shares five photos from one of their favorite travel destination. If you want to participate in a future Sunday Spotlight, please contact us.
Author Bio: Shanna is a self-professed travel addict who can’t go very long without a fix. Some of her favorite places to travel have been Scotland and anywhere in France (the south of France especially). Shanna loves to provide value conscious travel information for ordinary folks who don’t have a luxury budget but still want extraordinary travel experiences. You can follow her travels at There and Back Again Travel Blog or on Facebook or Twitter.
South Korea is a country whose scars are just barely concealed beneath the surface. You would not guess it from the joyful, welcoming people that we met during our visit, but it becomes obvious if you visit the DMZ (demilitarized zone) between the two countries that South Korea is still suffering under the weight of the collective pain caused by the division of the country in 1953.
It may not be something that you think about in your day-to-day life, but the country of Korea is still at war. I didn’t realize it until our visit to the Demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. The entire country is divided by a border of barbed wire and guns. The Korean war ended in 1953 not with a declaration of peace, but merely a cease-fire. The border is quiet now, but one gets the impression that both sides are ready for hostilities to start-up again at any time (we actually had to sign a waiver to go on the tour stating that we understood that we were going into a war zone.)
I got the impression during our visit that most people in South Korea are hoping for reunification of the fractured countries. We saw many peace memorials and other peace related offerings during our visit. These ribbons are at one end of the Bridge of Freedom at Imjingak. The bridge has been used by POW’s and other who have been allowed to return from North Korea. Imjingak is a park that was built around it to console those from North Korea who were stuck in the south when the country was divided, and those from the south whose relatives were trapped in the North.
The Dora San Train Station was built on hope. Now, an eerie quiet and sense of potential hang in the air inside. The station and train line running through it was meant to reconnect the severed artery between the two countries, to reestablish the connection between the North and the South. A sign in the station reads, “Not the last station from the South, But the first station toward the North,” illustrating what the station means to South Korea. The 40 million dollar station has never actually been used (a few shipments of goods went back and forth between the two countries, but that stopped shortly after it started in 2003). It sits immaculate, maintained, ready and waiting for the trains to come. The tracks stretch out endlessly in both directions, void of any movement or life, with Seoul at one end and Pyongyang at the other. Inside the station, stern looking South Korean soldiers pose for pictures for tourists.
It is hard for me to imagine what it would have been like for the people of North and South Korea in 1953, after the war “ended” and the wall went up dividing the two countries. The heartbreak of those on both sides who were forever separated from family members and from their homes is almost unimaginable. Perhaps this old, tired woman selling vegetables in a market in Seoul lost someone when that happened. The barely healed scars from the division are evident just under the current of daily life as a sense of shared suffering and pain held in the hearts of the South Korean people.
There was hope when North Kora’s leader Kim Jong-Il passed away in 2011 that his son, Kim Jong Un would make steps as the new ruler of North Korea to bring both countries closer to reunification. As of yet, there is no sign of that happening. This monument in South Korea exhibits the spirit of hope that those in South Korea still hold, that perhaps someday, the scars on the hearts of the people in both countries can begin to heal.