Bridge of No Return

22 08 2009

bridge of no return The Bridge of No Return…

Yes, it’s a real place. Both in the world and in my mind. I’ve made some decisions and there’s no turning back. Ever feel you’ve made an irrevokable decision and wonder if you’ll regret it? That’s where this bridge leads. Once you start across, you can’t change your mind. You can never return. The bridge in the picture leads from South Korea to North Korea. At once time, families stood here and had to make an agonizing decision–to cross or stay where they were. To cross might mean new adventures, new opportunities, or heartbreak. No one knew for sure if they’d regret it later. To cross also meant leaving behind loved ones, friends, jobs, homes, and walking into the unknown. I’m doing that now and hoping I won’t regret all I’m leaving behind. I pray when I get to the other side of the bridge, my dreams await. But what if they don’t? What happens then?

Because there’s no turning back.  Ever.

North Korean Tunnels Under Seoul?

12 08 2009

The scariest part of the DMZ trip was at the end when we entered a tunnel that had been blasted underground from North Korea all the way to Seoul. It was a long walk through the tunnel, hunched over, until we came to the steel door that had been installed to block off access. According to the guide, North Korea said the tunnels were for coal mining. Okay, say that’s true. How come they came all the way into South Korea to Seoul? If you’re digging or blasting underground to remove coal, or anything else for that matter, do you have the right to go beyond your country’s borders? It wouldn’t seem so. Technically, anything underground should belong to the country above it, right?

So, that leads to an even bigger question: Why were there four tunnels that just happen to run from North Korea to two major cities in South Korea? Hmmm… And according to the video we saw, the South Koreans believe there may be as many as 10 undiscovered tunnels. Pretty scary thought! I’m picturing the land under South Korea riddled with underground tunnels. My writer’s brain went crazy with possible scenarios. Could the weight of the city cause it all to collapse if too many tunnels are dug? What if some of the tunnels come to the surface inside houses or buildings, and the North Koreans are infiltrating the country without the South Koreans being aware of it? What if they set off huge explosive devices inside all of them at the same time? If I were into warfare novels, I’d have lots of ideas for plotlines.

The tunnel we went into was discovered in 1991, when people in the area complained of strange noises. Holes were bored in the area and filled with water. An underground explosion shot water into the air. Later the remaining water trickled down into the hole that had been made below it, so these tunnels have been made long after the cease fire. Another reminder that the two countries are still technically at war.

BTW, no pictures allowed. They made us leave our cameras on the military bus, but I scoured the web & found this so you can see what it looks like:

The only thing you can’t see is the steep descent into the tunnel.  I wasn’t the only one sweating in my yellow hard hat. The worst was yet to come. After going down, slogging all the way through the tunnel, stooped over, you had to make it back up the steep incline. Sure were a lot of people resting along the side, gasping for breath, claiming they had allergies or heart trouble. Was I one of them? All I can say is: I’m glad they didn’t allow cameras.

The Most Dangerous Golf Course in the World

10 08 2009

Golf Love golf and want to live dangerously? Try the one-hole golf course on the military base of South Korea. Situated near the strip of land between North and South Korea, this golf course will have amateur golfers risking their lives. A shanked ball might just set off a land mine. The military in South Korea has no idea where the North Koreans buried their land mines. Occasionally, an animal or even a person sets one off. A golf ball could do the same. If you want to improve the accuracy of your shot, this might be a good place to start.

[NOTE: The course looked a lot like this, except it was surrounded by barbed wire. Pictures not allowed. So you’ll have to use your imagination.]

Unification of North and South Korea

8 08 2009

dmz-split globe This sculpture that we saw on the DMZ trip truly exemplifies the split between the two countries. Before we entered North Korea, we walked through Peace House, built for the talks to end the war. A lovely building, but it’s never been used. The war has not officially ended, so the two countries are still enemies.

Our tour guide’s mother fled North Korea and has no idea what happened to her siblings or other relatives who stayed behind. But I was interested to discover that a bridge between the two countries has been restored and, even more interesting, South Korea has a manufacturing complex located in North Korea. It’s staffed by North Koreans; South Korea supplies the electricity. A joint venture that might lead to unification? One certainly hopes so.

But the soldier who took us into North Korea told us an interesting anecdote about the two countries meeting to talk peace. The talks broke down, but both sides were reluctant to leave the table because they didn’t want to be the first to give in, so they sat there staring at each other for 18 hours until both sides agreed to get up and leave at the same time. That story makes me wonder: How much of war is about pride? About saving face? About fear of being seen as weak? About needing to feel you have the upper hand? About power and control?

If pride and power are taken out of the equation, would everyone live at peace?