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DMZ worth it without Panmunjom (JSA)?

DMZ worth it without Panmunjom (JSA)?

Old Jan 15, 18, 12:40 pm
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DMZ worth it without Panmunjom (JSA)?

I've seen several threads on here about how the visit to the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom is the must-do of any DMZ trip. We are passing through Seoul (arriving the evening of March 1 and leaving the morning of March 3) and have scheduled a half-day tour that goes to the JSA on March 2. I know that JSA visits can be cancelled at the last minute due to exercises, tensions and these days (thankfully) negotiations, so am crossing my fingers that all of these take that particular Friday off.

But, should our JSA tour be cancelled, I'm interested in opinions on whether any of the other sights at the DMZ are worth seeing on what will be our only day in Seoul. This is our first visit to the country, and I don't know when we might be back, and so if the JSA tour is cancelled I'm wondering if it wouldn't be more worthwhile to see the sights in Seoul itself instead of heading up to what we could see at the DMZ other than Panmunjom. For background, we're interested in historic and religious sights, as well as good food and drink. Thanks in advance for any advice!
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Old Jan 15, 18, 1:24 pm
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Can't speak for everyone, but I think a tour without the JSA is basically a waste of time. Dora Observatory is only worth the time if the weather is clear. The tunnel is a decent hike if you walk out, but otherwise pretty anticlimactic; Dora station, if they take you there, is nothing special, and the cafeteria lunch you get at the border facility (where the ROK-bound trucks are X-rayed/scanned) is a wasted meal, IMO. Maybe Imjingak is interesting the first time you visit, but not all DMZ tours get you there.

Personally, knowing now what I didn't know when I scheduled a DMZ tour (which included the JSA), I would pass unless I can get to the JSA.

I think you'd be far better off spending time on something which interests you more.
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Old Jan 15, 18, 5:11 pm
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Originally Posted by zippy the pinhead View Post
Can't speak for everyone, but I think a tour without the JSA is basically a waste of time. Dora Observatory is only worth the time if the weather is clear. The tunnel is a decent hike if you walk out, but otherwise pretty anticlimactic; Dora station, if they take you there, is nothing special, and the cafeteria lunch you get at the border facility (where the ROK-bound trucks are X-rayed/scanned) is a wasted meal, IMO. Maybe Imjingak is interesting the first time you visit, but not all DMZ tours get you there.

Personally, knowing now what I didn't know when I scheduled a DMZ tour (which included the JSA), I would pass unless I can get to the JSA.

I think you'd be far better off spending time on something which interests you more.
I was stationed with the US Army basically next to the DMZ south border "tape", the south border tape is the Northern point of the truce line for South Korea. To view the desolate DMZ from the northern most part of South Korea is fascinating. While I can sadly visualize the deceased GI's I witnessed in Korea, anyone can sense the hostile environment. A few years ago, my wife and I had a connection in Seoul. I arranged for one night at a top-rated hotel and I contacted them in advance for arranging a car and driver (who spoke English) to drive us in the morning to the DMZ. Unfortunately, it was winter and before we reached the DMZ, the snow fell so hard we were forced to abort the drive. If circumstances permit, such a personal tour to the DMZ would be a memory for a lifetime.
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Old Jan 15, 18, 6:22 pm
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Originally Posted by RaginPlainsman View Post
But, should our JSA tour be cancelled, I'm interested in opinions on whether any of the other sights at the DMZ are worth seeing on what will be our only day in Seoul.
I don't know if this is representative of what normally happens, but my JSA tour was cancelled on the morning of the tour itself. I had already been picked up by the "feeder" shuttle bus when the tour guide sent me a text saying "JSA closed today, do you want to cancel or convert to a non-JSA, DMZ tour." My point being that your Plan B needs to be able to be activated on really short notice

Anyway for me, the sans-JSA half-day tour was still pretty interesting, we visited Imjingak, 3rd Tunnel, Dora Observatory and Dora station. For most travelers I'd still recommend doing it, but in your specific case where you have only 1 day in Seoul ... perhaps a visit to the war museum and other Seoul attractions might be a better idea.
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Old Jan 15, 18, 7:45 pm
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Originally Posted by 1st Cav Vet View Post
I was stationed with the US Army basically next to the DMZ south border "tape", the south border tape is the Northern point of the truce line for South Korea. To view the desolate DMZ from the northern most part of South Korea is fascinating. While I can sadly visualize the deceased GI's I witnessed in Korea, anyone can sense the hostile environment. A few years ago, my wife and I had a connection in Seoul. I arranged for one night at a top-rated hotel and I contacted them in advance for arranging a car and driver (who spoke English) to drive us in the morning to the DMZ. Unfortunately, it was winter and before we reached the DMZ, the snow fell so hard we were forced to abort the drive. If circumstances permit, such a personal tour to the DMZ would be a memory for a lifetime.
You can view North Korea from many places without being in the service. Kangwha Island, for example.

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Last edited by zippy the pinhead; Jan 15, 18 at 8:41 pm
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Old Jan 15, 18, 7:48 pm
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I mean if you literally want to see North Korea, by all means do a Non-JSA tour. That being said, the Non-JSA tour is not the best because it just looks like the regular Korean countryside over there. If you want the feeling of SUPER SCARY INTENSE security theater North Korea, you need the JSA.

If it's your first time in Seoul, you will have many things to do. You shouldn't be at a loss if JSA cancels. As far as the "other sights" in Seoul, I can't say what you have left/what you will have already seen of course, but there's plenty to do in Seoul.
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Old Jan 15, 18, 9:23 pm
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Originally Posted by mikesaidyes View Post
I mean if you literally want to see North Korea, by all means do a Non-JSA tour. That being said, the Non-JSA tour is not the best because it just looks like the regular Korean countryside over there. If you want the feeling of SUPER SCARY INTENSE security theater North Korea, you need the JSA.

If it's your first time in Seoul, you will have many things to do. You shouldn't be at a loss if JSA cancels. As far as the "other sights" in Seoul, I can't say what you have left/what you will have already seen of course, but there's plenty to do in Seoul.
I really have to agree with the super scary intense security theater that is the JSA.., I found it one of the most depressing borders anywhere in the world. And I understand your concern about the tour being cancelled. We went to Korea a few years ago, just after some S Korean soldiers had drowned during tensions with the North... We were supposed to be taken by the US military to the DMZ. This had been arranged months in advance. About two days before, we got a call that the army was concerned about upcoming planned demonstrations in Seoul at the time or our visit, and advised us, very prudently not to go near the demonstrations and told us they would not be able to accompany us. I waited until night when it would be morning in Korea, and called a couple of tour agencies to see if they had places for us in 48 hours time. One did, and I wasn't sure until I saw the car at the hotel.whether the trip was actually one or not. It did go on as planned, and I will say it was the single most impressionable experience in Korea, hesitating to call it a highlight. That said, Seoul is a very interesting city from a historical perspective, great temples, cultural, fantastic national museum, shopping, and just admiring the metropolis that has been built on the southern side in the last 50 years. We just returned from a trip to Asia, where we had a one night stopover in Seoul, and realized how great a destination it is... but certainly cold in December... better to visit in the spring. So, I am +1 the quoted poster ., in that you cant go wrong on your first visit to Seoul... it is also a great airport.
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Old Jan 17, 18, 9:32 pm
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Thank you, everyone! Appreciate the insights. I'm going to work up a Plan B itinerary to see sights in Seoul in case the JSA tour falls through.
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Old Jan 20, 18, 10:07 pm
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I don't think they'll be hosting these tours with the government shutdown.
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Old Jan 24, 18, 12:12 pm
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Originally Posted by Aventine View Post
I don't think they'll be hosting these tours with the government shutdown.
Is that for all tours or just ones run by the USO? (Our tour is with Panmunjom Travel Center.) Government is back up and running now, but there's another deadline on February 8 so we could be right back in a shutdown in a few weeks.
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Old Jan 25, 18, 12:15 am
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While I think Aventine is right, it may be cut if the government shuts down, I wouldn't worry too much about the what if. Just schedule the tour and see what happens. They'll give you a refund. They usually do for cancellations that are not your fault (even though they say otherwise).
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