Thursday, January 10, 2008

The DMZ - Grandpa Jerry & Grandma Kay Murphy - Guest Author

Today we are finally HOME. It seems like we have been gone for ever. It was a very different six weeks. The sadness of Don's passing, the joy of Christmas and the wonderful trip to Korea. Not many people can say all that in a six week period. The DMZ trip was one of the highlights and we will try to explain our feelings about.

Tom arranged for a trip to the DMZ for Bunny,Jim,Sue, Tammy, Jeff and Kay. He told everyone that they must bring their passports. Of course Kay forgot hers but did have a card that listed her passport number and Expiration date and luckily that was good enough. It was a thirty minute trip outside Seoul and we were at the thirty eighth parallel. It was very much a part of our daily lives in the fifties and for we older folks more alive then history for the younger folks. We have many friends that were part of the Korean War.

We arrived at the Freedom Bridge site. It was cold and windy put we braved the weather and walked out to the Bridge. We were told that at the time North Korea invaded there was only one Bridge over the Han River and the South Koreans blew it up to stop the invasion. The Freedom Bridge was built to bring back prisoners. There are now 25 bridges over the Han. ( The Han River wanders through Seoul).From the Freedom Bridge we traveled through the DMZ, we had to present our passports to a broader guard, the young soldier just nodded at my passport card and I was allowed to go on to the Tunnel area. The North Koreans built a series of Tunnels in the Seventies with the idea of invading once again. The South discovered them and stopped the digging and countered with side tunnels and then set barricades. We were allowed down one the tunnels. It was a 480 meter walk down the where the barricade was set up. The North got so many tunnels in on the pretense that they were digging for coal. However, there is no coal in that area and that gave them away!! We had to put on hard hats to travel down. It was most interesting,some had to bend down to avoid getting conked on the head,(one if the advantages if being short). The sides were wet and you could see where the North Koreans smeared black paint to make the sides look like coal. The climb back up was not as much fun. Jerry and I had to stop and rest a few times but we made it up before the bus left. Our next stop was the new railroad station dedicated in 2000 by North and South Korea and the U.S. Pres. Bush was at that ceremony. It is a huge station that they hope some day will carry people and supplies from South Korea, thru the North all the way across the continent. Right now there is no traffic into North Korea but they are planning for the future. Our guide said that in ten to fifteen years they hope that will happen. The last stop was at the observation building. From here there is a 24/7 24hr. watch over North Korea.

We were told we could look over the ramparts into the North but to take pictures we had to stand behind a yellow line or our chips ( everyone has digital these days, but Jerry) would be confiscated. As usual there was one person who paid no attention and the young soldier took his chip away from him. The South Koreans are very serious about keeping the nation safe and you can see that by the presence of the soldiers. The U.S. had a larger role in the DMZ earlier. In fact there is monument to six soldiers that were killed on one of the bridges in the seventies. Now the U.S. has only 50 troops in Korea and the Koreans are solely in charge of the border. There were large red signs posted around the DMZ that warned any North Korean planes that they would be shot down if the entered the South's air space. We had a wonderful day of touring. As noted this was one of the highlights of the trip. Just being with Tom and Tracy and the grand kids was a great pleasure for us. They (the kids) have changed a little from our last visit. We loved the chance to be with them and really enjoyed the rest of Tracy's family. They are good travelers and the children amazed me with their stamina. We appreciate the fact that we were able to see a part of the world that we never thought to visit. Thank you Tom and Tracy.

Kay and Jerry