Thursday, 6 January 2011

DMZ Lotte World

I did not do a single one productive thing for the whole day so at least I decided to write this entry. South Korean overdone consumerism has always driven me a little bit nuts. Especially that it is very homogenous consumerism and that I am a part of it each time I go to Starbucks. Each time I go anywhere else. Or each time I just go out of my industrialized prison camp at Ajou.

The place where it is especially felt is DMZ - Demilitarized Zone. I have written a bit about this one here or there. But this time it is really an unforgettable advert.
 photo by Justinas Simanavici

''Thirsty? Try a DMZ water, fresh from the purity of intact land", says an advert of one of the brands which apparently found the way how to earn cash on the lasting Korean conflict. Crowds of tourists dragged by curiosity each year come to learn something about the situation in the penninsula. Mistery of last hermit non globalized country in the world is what brings them here. They want to feel that, experience that, how does it taste to be in clear and present danger.

South Korean soldier stands still protecting tourists from North Koreans...propaganda? Photo by Nathan Price
Typical program of the tour to DMZ is to see Panmunjom where Joint Security Area is located, watch North and South Korean soldiers who stand like salt statues half starring at each other. After that one is taken into a very well equipped tunnel which, as US soldiers in the role of guides say, had been digged for the purpose of infiltration. After portion of movies showing hope for reunification one is taken to a souvenir shop. Well, souvenir shop sells a tourist what reminds him about a visit to any tourist attraction later. But is it really a good idea?

Good or not, organizers will not let you get lost, they made sure to indicate which way is North Korea and which way is the toilet ( very needed sometimes ) and which way you may go to buy a souvenir T-shirt after you defected successfully.

photo by Nathan Price
Cheap souvenirs, cups, magnets, t-shirts and gadjets of all sorts with DMZ written on it contrast very sharply with dangerous communist buildings on the other side and soldiers ready to fire a gun in a blink of an eye.

There are even better things. A plastic worm just next to Korean warfare reminds you that it is only a tourist trip. When you are bored with all that talking about conflict, reunification, etc, you may also drop by amusement park nearby. And when you are thirsty, drink DMZ water.

 photo by Justinas Simanavici

This all represents the reality of two different countries of both sides. After all, South Korea is a capitalistic democracy and has right to do cash on anything it wants. But it poses a question, what happens to DMZ if ever it stops being the most hostile border in the world? Will it be changed into a National Park because it has intact ecosystem, or will be changed into another land of skyscrappers and Starbucks? That is the question.

Thanks to Justinas Simanavici and Nathan Price for these photos above.
You can visit Nathan's blog here:, it is full of satiric eye comments, some of them sharply described impressions from DMZ

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