US News Built for Invasion, North Korean Tunnels Now Flow With Tourists

12:00  05 november  2017
12:00  05 november  2017 Source:   The New York Times

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White House strikes back at Bushes over weak legacy. Trump dropped Manafort for 'potential conflicts'. Built for Invasion , North Korean Tunnels While tourists can see the North Korean handiwork, what they cannot do is cross the border, as the passage to the North is now blocked by concrete slabs.

Inside The 3rd Infiltration Tunnel At The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) In South Korea Video by The Seoul Guide.

a sunset in the dark: A tunnel built by North Korea underneath the Demilitarized Zone reaches into the South. © Nathan Benn/Corbis, via Getty Images A tunnel built by North Korea underneath the Demilitarized Zone reaches into the South.

The tunnels are hundreds of feet below the earth’s surface and stretch from the North Korean side of the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone into neighboring South Korea.

One was discovered just 32 miles from the South’s capital, Seoul.

South Korea says the four passages, the so-called Tunnels of Aggression, were built to move thousands of North Korean troops quickly and covertly underneath the Demilitarized Zone and onto South Korean soil for an invasion, an accusation Pyongyang has long denied.

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But in the decades since their discovery, some of the tunnels have found new life as a tourist destinations. Thousands of Koreans and foreign visitors explore these odd relics of a frozen conflict, one that is now stressed by renewed tensions and in the spotlight ahead of President Trump’s visit to the Peninsula on Tuesday.

The history of the tunnels

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: A South Korean tour guide showing a map of one of the tunnels. © Eric Lafforgue/Corbis, via Getty Images A South Korean tour guide showing a map of one of the tunnels. During the 1970s, North Korean defectors told officials in the South that President Kim Il-sung had ordered army units to subvert the Demilitarized Zone by digging tunnels underneath it to prepare for an invasion. Three tunnels were found soon after.

The first tunnel was discovered in 1974 by a South Korean Army patrol, which saw steam rising from the ground and heard suspicious noises. A second tunnel was discovered in 1975. South Korean officials estimated that the second tunnel, which extended nearly a half-mile into their territory, could have accommodated up to 30,000 troops an hour.

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He told us some insider info about the defense plans of his motherland in the event of a North Korean invasion , and how they are pretty much fucked if the North does decide to come down their way. Besides building underground tunnels that stretch into South Korean territory, from which they will

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In 1978, a significantly larger tunnel was discovered south of Panmunjom, the so-called truce village, another popular tourist spot where military personnel on the two sides of the Demilitarized Zone come face to face.

A fourth tunnel was discovered in 1990, and while none have been found since, some speculate that dozens have yet to be spotted.

What visitors to the tunnels can expect

a man and a woman standing in front of a building: Tourists exiting a tunnel near Cheorwon, South Korea. © Ed Jones/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Tourists exiting a tunnel near Cheorwon, South Korea. Tourists in the South are able to visit three of the tunnels through guided tours.

For the equivalent of $10, according to South Korea’s official tourism site, visitors can explore the most popular of the passageways, the “Third Tunnel of Aggression,” located at DorasanObservatory in South Korea’s northwest.

[Video: Inside The 3rd Infiltration Tunnel At The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) In South Korea Watch on YouTube.]

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On foot. All. Tourist Spots. Event. Shopping.

This tunnel was deemed to be the “most threatening as an invasion tool” by the tourism office, because of its proximity to Seoul, just 32 miles away.

The tunnel is 240 feet below the surface. Tourists enter through a gift shop before beginning a steep descent. They wear helmets to protect themselves from the low ceilings.

While tourists can see the North Korean handiwork, what they cannot do is cross the border, as the passage to the North is now blocked by concrete slabs.

The DMZ’s decades of evolving tourism

a man standing in front of a building: A North Korean Army officer at the Demilitarized Zone in 2016. © Wong Maye-E/Associated Press A North Korean Army officer at the Demilitarized Zone in 2016. While South Korea began its official efforts to bring visitors to the Demilitarized Zone in the mid-1960s, tourism to the area has boomed since the early 2000s. After the end of the Cold War, it became a place were tourists could see the tension of that era play out in relative safety, said Scott A. Snyder, a senior fellow for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“The rest of the world wasn’t on this kind of trigger edge, and yet here was this anomalous place where there were still guns kind of pointed at each other,” Mr. Snyder said. “But at the same time, it was like a little secret that everyone knew there was not going to be war.”

In addition to the tunnels and the village of Panmunjom, ecotourism has become a popular draw for tourists. More than six decades as a no-man’s land has allowed some endangered species of plants and wildlife to thrive in the Demilitarized Zone. South Korea’s tourism authority says it has “unintentionally become a haven for wildlife.”

As threats from both sides have again sparked fears of war on the Peninsula, Mr. Snyder urged caution in seeing the Demilitarized Zone as an artifact of a bygone era and warned that its popularity had potentially negative consequences.

“The danger is that it actually trivializes the threat,” he said. “I do think there is this sense that the potential risks of war are in the past — and yet the conflict remains unresolved.”

He added: “They are seeing a frozen conflict but they aren’t necessarily taking it that way because of the tourists elements.”

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