• North Korean and South Korean soldiers at the DMZ seen from the DPRK (North Korea)
    Panmunjom DMZ

Panmunjom - the scariest place on Earth?

Introduction

Panmunjom is where the Korean War Armistice was signed in 1953. North and South Korea are still technically at war as peace treaty was never signed.

It was agreed that a no-man's land 4 kilometres wide and 250 kilometres long stretching across the Korean Peninsula would be created. This is known as the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ). The most militarised de-militarised zone and borderline in the world, it was described by former US President Bill Clinton as the "scariest place on Earth".

North Korean military officer shakes hands with a KTG traveller after the briefing of Panmunjom and just before going to the negotiation talks room and the Peace Museum. Panmunjom is in the DMZ. Join one of KTG's tours to see it from North Korea (DPRK)

The scariest place on Earth? KPA officer shakes hands with a traveller from KTG before we move on to the Hall of Armistice Talks.

Panmunjom (Panmunjeom) is the most visited place of the DMZ. Many tours run from Seoul to the Joint Security Area. If joining one of our tours you will have the chance to see the dividing line from "the other side" and hear the North Korean version of the Korean War.

Reunification Monument in Pyongyang. Picture taken from the reunification highway that connects Pyongyang to Kaesong. Explore North Korea with KTG® Tours

We pass under the Reunification Monument in Pyongyang when taking the Reunification Highway to Kaesong.

Location

Panmunjom is located 168 kilometres south of Pyongyang and just 8 km away from Kaesong city. The ride takes around 3 hours each way.

Map from Pyongyang to Panmunjom in the DMZ, North Korea (DPRK). Join KTG® Tours to see the JSA from North Korea

When heading there we have a break at a tea house that is built over the highway that connects Pyongyang to Kaesong; Tongil (meaning reunification in Korean) highway. We usually have a 10 minute break there. You have some coffee, tea, snacks and buy souvenirs too.

Tea house on the Tongil highway (reunification highway) that connects Pyongyang to Kaesong. We have a break here before arriving at Panmunjom, the DMZ. Tour arranged by KTG Travel

Tip: not many travellers do this, but if you go up the tea house you can get some great shots of the highway! Check our Youtube video below:

Arriving at Panmunjom

Once we arrive at the car park of Panmunjom we get off our bus/car. There is a building to our right and toilettes are on the left hand side.

Arriving at Panmunjom in the DMZ, North Korea (DPRK). Trip to North Korea arranged by KTG Tours

Arriving at Panmunjom

The building to the right consists of a souvenir shop and a room where a soldier will give us a briefing about the Truce Village. After the soldier gives his briefing we exit the room and line up. Each group is then to walk straight, one by one, back on the bus where at least a soldier (sometimes more) will accompany us.

KPA officer (Korean People's Army, the North Korean military) briefing KTG travellers on Panmunjom at the DMZ. Explore North Korea with KTG® Tours

KPA officer briefing us on Panmunjom at the DMZ.

Hall of Armistice Talks

We then drive from there to the Peace Museum which is where negotiations took place during the war. As we head there you can see locals farming the lands and, almost out of nowhere two large flag poles, rising high in the sky, one with a giant DPRK flag and, the one on the South Korean side, with a South Korean flag.

Negotiations took place between the DPRK and the UN/US during the Korean War. Join KTG® Tours to see Panmunjom from the North Korean side

When we get off the bus we will have to line up again and the soldier will guide us. We see where negotiations between the DPRK and US led forces took place. The original tables and chairs are still there.

This is the room where negotiations took place between the DPRK and the UN/US during the Korean War, 1950-1953. The tables and chairs are the original ones used. You can visit this place if visiting Panmunjom, the DMZ, from North Korea. Tour arranged by KTG travel

Peace Museum (평화박물관)

Next is the museum where the armistice was signed. You can see the original UN flag used as well as pictures and weapons related to Panmunjom.

Table where the Korean War Armistice was signed. This is in the Peace Museum on the North Korean side of Panmunjom in the DMZ. Tour arranged by KTG Travel

The Korean War Armistice room can be seen in the image above. It was built in only 5 days by the North Koreans who refused to sign the armistice agreement in a temporary tent as suggested by the US. This hall had 900 square metres and is where the armistice agreement was finally signed. The original UN flag, tables and chairs used are preserved in this hall.

Pictures and weapons can also be seen in the Peace Museum on the North Korean side of Panmunjom in the DMZ. Trip arranged by KTG Tours

Pictures and weapons can also be seen in the Peace Museum.

Text of the Korean War Armistice agreement in the Peace Museum on the North Korea at Panmunjom in the DMZ. DMZ tours in North Korea with KTG Tours

The Korean peninsula witnessed the first Cold War armed conflict, involving North and South Korean, US, UN and Chinese troops. The peace treaty between the North and South has not yet been signed, making this conflict longer than its origin.

Monument to President Kim Il Sung’s Autograph

We hop back on the bus and continue the tour. The first stop here is the Monument to the autograph of President Kim Il Sung. The soldier guide will explain that this autograph is a replica of President Kim Il Sung’s last signature where he expressed his wish of reunification of North and South Korea.

Monument to President Kim Il Sung’s signature in Panmunjom. This was based on Kim Il Sung’s last official signature which he signed just before passing away in July 1994. The documents were related to the reunification of the Korean Peninsula. Join KTG Tours to visit the DMZ from North Korea

Military Demarcation Line

North and South Korean soldiers face each other at the Panmunjom in the DMZ. Trip arranged by KTG Tours

We keep walking towards the demarcation line and, all of the sudden, we are face to face with the blue negotiation rooms that sit on the line that separates both Koreas, the famous Freedom Building in South Korea in the background. Here we are, what many describe as a trip highlight; the Military Demarcation Line.

DMZ North and South Korean soldiers seen in the picture. Despite the signing of an armistice, there is no peace treaty. As a result the two sides are still technically at war.

The concrete slab shown below separates the Korean Peninsula and only a few meters separate the North and South Korean soldiers. Tension is sometimes almost tangible here. We have seen for instance DPRK soldiers walk close up to the concrete slab and take pictures of their South Korean counterparts who were showing US military personnel around.

Armed conflicts have sporadically taken place since 1953, though these have decreased in the past few years.

The concrete slab marks the demarcation line in Panmunjom at the DMZ and separates North and South Korea

North and South Korean soldiers take turns in entering the Military Armistice Commission building that runs on the concrete slab that divides the peninsula into two places with completely different political ideologies.

North Korean soldiers take pictures of South Korean soldiers at Panmunjom in the DMZ. Trip arranged by KTG Tours

Tension? Notice the North Korean soldiers on the right side of the image taking pictures of South Korean soldiers just a few meters away from them.

If one of the negotiation buildings is opened travellers have the opportunity to enter and to technically be in South Korea. There is a table exactly in the middle of the room with a microphone cable which officially marks the border between North and South Korea. On the South Korea side of the room two DPRK soldiers guard the door that leads to South Korea.

South Korean soldiers and tourists visiting from South Korea can be sometimes seen too.

North Korean soldiers standing on the door of the blue negotiations room that leads to South Korea. It is strictly forbidden to go behind them. Trip arranged by KTG Tours

Panmunjom - North Korean soldiers cover the southern door of the building that crosses the demarcation line. They are literally standing in South Korea.

North Korean military officer shakes hand with KTG staff member Rayco Vega at Panmunjom in the DMZ in North Korea.

KPA officer shakes hands with Rayco from KTG outside the Panmun Pavilion in Panmunjon

We are absolutely not allowed to cross this line (except for when inside the blue negotiation room when you can go to the other side of the table which is technically in South Korea). It is common for soldiers from the South to glare through the window when visitors from the North come in and vice versa. There are microphones in the room which also mark the dividing line. They record 24/7.

The microphone line marks the border between North and South Korea. This is in the blue negotiation rooms in Panmunjom at the DMZ. If interested in checking Panmunjom from North Korea then feel free to contact us at KTG Tours!

Panmunjom Military Demarcation Line - this microphone line divides the two Koreas; a line that has divided the peninsula and one same people for decades.

After staying here for a while you will be escorted out of the blue building and the North Korean soldiers will leave too locking the Northern door (where you come in and out the building) and South Korean soldiers will enter if they have a group. Then two of them will stand in front of the northern door. It has become less common in recent years to be able to see tourists coming in from South Korea when we go to the DMZ and we have been told that visits from the South are arranged at different times now. Please bear in mind that visitors are not allowed to step behind these soldiers.

Panmungak (Panmun Pavilion, 판문각)

We then head to Panmungak, the building facing the negotiation rooms, to have a clear view of the Military Demarcation Line. It's a great place for pictures! It was built in 1969. In South Korea they have the Freedom House which you will notice is full of CCTVs.

KTG traveller and KPA officer pose for a picture at the building facing the military demarcation line and freedom house in South Korea. North Korean military officers are very friendly with travellers at the DMZ

DMZ tours - North Korean soldier poses with a KTG traveller at the terrace of Panmungak across from the demarcation line that divides the peninsula into two.

Wildlife in the DMZ

The DMZ is 250 km long and 4 km wide, running roughly across the 38th parallel from the east coast to the west coast of the Korean peninsula. People are not allowed in the DMZ (apart from in Pamunjom and on the Donghae Bukbu line on the east coast) and as a result this buffer zone has become a wildlife reserve.

Canary bird at Panmunjom in the DMZ in North Korea (DPRK). Wildlife has flourished in the untouched DMZ that strecthes across the Korean Peninsula. Visit Panmunjom and the joint security are in North Korea with KTG

First Canary Bird at the DMZ?

Canary birds aside, and on a more serious note, animals that were about to be extinct, such as the Korean wild boar, many birds such as the black-faces spoonbill, have flourished these past decades at the DMZ. Some scientists even believe to have found traces of a Korean subspecies of the Siberian Tiger.

Souvenirs in Panmunjom

You can purchase all kinds of goods in the room next to where the presentation is given by the KPA officer ; ginseng (a famous product of Kaesong), t-shirts, stamps, trinkets and, most famously, hand painted propaganda posters.

If you are looking into purchasing hand painted propaganda posters this is the place to do it. Not only is there a wide variety of options, but you actually meet the painter as he sells them. If looking to purchase postcards or stamps then we recommend you to check out the stamp shop outside of the Koryo Museum in Kaesong.

Related pages:

Please click here to see what other areas you will be able to visit other than Kaesong while visiting North Korea.

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