Travel to North Korea

lydia lopez Start Date: Nov 21, 2017 - End Date: Apr 19, 2018
  • Korea Norte, Mexico

My Travel Story

by: lydia lopez Start Date: Nov 21, 2017 - End Date: Apr 19, 2018
I had assumed its shadow would loom largest in South Korea, but it seemed hardly to register. Capital city Seoul, taken and reclaimed four times during the war, is a mere 35 miles from the border. Yet even as news reports detailed the North’s most recent missile tests I heard nobody talking about it, felt no public tension. One morning a squadron of military helicopters thundered overhead while I waited for a bus. While I gawped and snapped photos, the people around me never looked up from their phones.

It was unlikely I would be killed at the DMZ, despite our tour guide’s insistence to the contrary. If a shell didn’t get us, she insisted, a misplaced step into a minefield would. Or barbed wire. Or DPRK soldiers springing from a secret tunnel. Surprise! I quickly wrote it off as melodrama playing to the expectations of giddy tourists like myself.

Half an hour’s drive from Seoul brought us to the coast. Security fences laced with barbed wire lined mile after mile, watchtowers set at regular intervals. Drawing closer to the border we passed through numerous armed checkpoints, over ditches bristling with razor wire, stretches of flat ground marked as heavily mined.

I sat up straighter and wondered if I should take the tour guide seriously after all. My excitement for the visit remained, but a sense of dread grew heavier in my stomach. The guide had been trying to scare us, but clearly there was reason to be scared.
  • Korea Norte, Mexico