Time to turn things up a notch. Come join us in the Republic of Korea, North Korea’s southern counterparts who have been split since the Japanese surrendered in World War II in 1945. During our All Koreas Part 3, we’ll explore two rural regions in South Korea that prior to the Korean War belonged to the North as well as visiting Panmunjom – AKA The DMZ from the south side.
Our adventure begins in the Chinese Bordertown city of Dandong, where All Koreas: Part 2 concludes, and we take an overnight ferry to Incheon in South Korea. Along the way, we’ll be passing North Korean coastline which can only be seen from this particular ferry route. It is optional to start this tour with us in Seoul.
Incheon, most famous for the Incheon landings during the Korean War where General MacArthur led the US and UN forces to recapture Seoul from the North and to regain control of the war, is now one of Asia’s busiest seaports. Once we arrive we’ll head into Seoul, the capital, and begin exploring our top picks of must see and do places which include visiting the Korean War Museum, the Blue House – the official residence of the South Korean president – exploring the former royal residence of Gyeongbokgung Palace and walking around Gwanghwamun area which is most recently famous for where tens of thousands gathered to force former president of South Korea Park Geun-hye to resign for corruption. The US Embassy is also located nearby where other locals protest the Americans being based in South Korea and for the reunification of the Korean peninsula.
We’ll then make our way out towards the east coast of the Korean Peninsula to a small city called Sokcho, once a city claimed by North Korea between 1945 – 1950. During the 1960s and 70s, Sokcho was one of the biggest towns where North Korean defectors who had arrived by fishing vessels resided. Here we’ll visit Kim Il Sung’s former summer palace where pictures of Kim Jong Il as a child are displayed as well as belongings the family left behind, and go further north to Goseong Unification Observatory located right on the DMZ where we can see Mt. Kumgang in North Korea in the distance for stunning views. We’ll also visit the recently built DMZ museum where the complete history of the Korean nation is broken down with fascinating exhibits including North Korean fishermen boats used to cross to the south, an East German exhibit, tanks used during the Korean War and more.
Time to head back towards Seoul but on the way stopping at Cheorwon, a unique county that has been split into two. Half of it belonging to the South and the other half to the North. Here we’ll check out an abandoned North Korean Worker’s Party of Korea government building and a railway station left behind as well as catching a very rare glimpse into North Korea.
Once arriving back into Seoul we’ll do the major highlight of the tour and visit the DMZ from the south side. We believe visiting the DMZ from both the North and South side is vital as it’s our chance to listen to the stories, the heartbreak and the tensions that have happened in this particular area for more than 65 years.
Group will meet at the Dandong Railway Hotel Lobby at 6:30pm
Go out for a real Dandong experience of BBQ on the street
Evening stroll around Moon Island, a stone throw away from the North Korean border town city of Sinuiju
Overnight in Dandong hotel
Sunday 3rd July – Boat to South Korea
Wake up and breakfast at hotel
Go for a morning hike up to Mt. Jinjiang to overlook Dandong city with Sinuiju in the distance. As we walk down the mountain will walk through an old soviet style theme park opened in the early 80’s
Lunch in Dandong
Our driver will pick us up from the hotel as we make our way down to Donggang county where Dandong’s large seaport is located
1:00pm begin going through Chinese customs and immigration
Our overnight ferry from Dandong departs at 4:00pm heading towards Incheon, South Korea. Great rare scenery of North Korea from the ferry.
Dinner on the boat is available (30RMB to 50RMB) pizza is also available for 100RMB, it’s not bad!
Monday 4th July – Seoul
Arrive in Incheon at 9:00am and go through South Korean immigration and customs (best to bring some snacks for breakfast on the boat as immigration can take some time)
Driver will pick us up and take us into town and check into our hostel
Head to Gwangjang Market for some legit Korean street food and walk around
Visit the Blue House – the executive office and official residence of the South Korean president.
Visit Gyeongbokgung Palace – built in 1395, it was the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty from 1392 to 1897. Dressing up in Korean traditional clothes gets you in for free!
Explore around Gwanghwamun area – this is the large public gathering where the majority of protests held in Seoul are held in this very spot. Most recently famous for where tens of thousands gathered to force former president of South Korea Park Geun-hye to resign for corruption. The US Embassy is located nearby where other locals protest for the Americans being based in South Korea and for the reunification of the Korean peninsula.
Head back to hostel to chill
Head to Noryangjin Seafood Market for dinner and to explore one of YPT’s favourite seafood market
Check out Seoul’s nightlife
Overnight in hostel
Tuesday 5th July – Sokcho / Goesong DMZ
Drive to Sokcho city – located on the east of the Korean Peninsula, this city belonged to North Korea from 1945 until the end of the Korean War. Many of the population here have relatives in North Korea.
Head further north towards the DMZ and visit Kim Il Sung’s old summer palace – this was used as a summer house not only by Kim Il Sung’s family, but also by high-level members of the Worker’s Party of Korea from 1948 to 1950.
Visit the DMZ Museum – YPTs favourite museum in South Korea with incredible exhibits showing the Korean split and items recovered from defectors
Lunch nearby on the beach
Goseong Unification Observatory – built by a South Korean army unit in 1983, this observatory is the nearest place for viewing Mt Kumgang in North Korea.
Head back to Sokcho city and check into guesthouse
Dinner and evening walking along the bay
Overnight in guesthouse
Wednesday 6th July – Cheorwon DMZ
Drive to Cheorwon country – located right on the DMZ, it’s the only county in Korea that’s separated into two. One in the North, one in the South.
Enter the Second Infiltration Tunnel – discovered in 1975 by South Korean DMZ soldiers feeling explosions underneath them, this tunnel extends about a kilometre into Southern territory and is estimated to have accommodated up to 30,000 North Korean troops an hour.
Explore the abandoned Worker’s Party of Korea government building left by North Korea
Visit an abandoned railway station – originally opened by the Chosen Government in 1912, it then belonged to North Korea from 1945 and closed in 1950 due to the Korean War.
Lunch at a local restaurant
Head back to Seoul
Check into hostel
Dinner and night out in Seoul
Overnight in Hostel
Thursday 7th July – JSA DMZ
Go to Camp Kim and jump on a military authorized bus to take us 70km north to Panmunjom (DMZ) – we must bring our passports along for security checks throughout the day
Visit Imjingak park – located right on the banks of the Imjin River in the city of Paju, only a few clicks away from the DMZ. This park is most famous for its numerous statues and monuments regarding the Korean War.
Unification Bridge – also known as the bridge of no return. It crosses the Military Demarcation Line between North Korea and South Korea and has been used for prisoner exchanges at the end of the Korean War in 1953.
DMZ Theatre –
Explore Third Infiltration Tunnel – this incomplete tunnel was discovered in October 1978 following the detection of an underground explosion in June 1978, apparently caused by the tunnellers who had progressed 435 metres under the south side of the DMZ. It took four months to locate the tunnel precisely and dig and intercept tunnel.
Visit Dora Observatory – here we can have a close glimpse of Kaesong City and other nearby farming towns in North Korea (if you did All Koreas Part 2 with us we were only in this city a few days before!)
Visit Dorasan Metro Station – what the South Koreans call the last metro station in the South but the first station to reunification
Lunch at the DMZ
Enter JSA (Joint Security Area) with a Military Police officer from the US Army
Checkpoint No. 3 (where axe incident occurred)
Return back to Seoul
Overnight in hostel
Friday 8th July – Seoul
Visit the War Memorial of Korea – opened in 1994 on the former site of the army headquarters to exhibit and memorialise the military history of Korea. The memorial building has six indoor exhibition rooms and an outdoor exhibition centre displaying war memorabilia and US/South Korean military equipment.
• Mix dorms. Single supplements are available for an extra 40 EUR per night.
• Overnight 3rd Class Ferry (Dandong, China to Incheon, South Korea).
• All breakfast & lunch meals
• Western guides
• Air-conditioned bus and driver service
• Seoul Metro passes
• Ticket entries