Unification News for August 2004

IPSF Works at the De-Militarized Zone Between North and South Korea

World Culture And Sports Festival 2004
by Khorrum Omar

Part of the Interreligious Peace Sports Festival educational program was a service project at the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea. Untouched for over 50 years after the war, the De-Militarized Zone has become a symbol of harmony because it is home to hundreds of species of plants and animals that have been living together in peace.

Sixty fortunate athletes, including myself, were chosen to participate in the one-day educational tour/service project on July 27, 2004. After a four-hour bus ride and a short stop at the ticket office, we entered the DMZ. Our first stop was the train station, which had photos and artistic impressions of the aftermath of the war in the area, with some brief history behind them. Everyone was snapping photos of everything. Even the soldier on duty was not spared.

We were later taken to the underground tunnels that the North Korean army had dug during the war. The passageways were only discovered by accident during restoration of the area after the war. All of us got the opportunity to walk through one of the tunnels. Four hundred meters deep and more than 2km long, it became colder the deeper we went. As we walked through the tunnel, there were signboards that explained how coal was painted onto the walls of the passages so as to disguise it as an ordinary coal mine. There were yellow paint marks indicating holes that the diggers made in walls for inserting dynamite and blasting the wall away. For thirsty travelers, natural spring water was available through a tap that was connected to bowls that collected the natural water dripping from the tunnel ceilings. Going back up was not easy, as everyone had to stop and catch their breath at places where seats were located.

It was not until we got to one of the observation towers that we had a better view of the DMZ area. A South Korean Army sergeant explained to us the various places of interest as we looked through the huge glass windows that gave us an almost birdís eye view of the beautiful area. After the short briefing, participants got to look through telescopes to see the places that we were told about. However, no one was allowed to take pictures beyond the observation tower.

A short distance away, we were driven to a home-like restaurant where we had lunch. The food tasted so delicious because the ingredients were freshly picked from the nearby farmlands. Bowls were refilled over and over again, so everyone left the restaurant with a full stomach.

The last part of the program was the service project. We were given gloves and sickles. Our task was to clear the overgrown land of weeds that had grown high and spread wide. One of the participants, Mr. Kenny Holiday, started humming a tune, and one by one we started humming our own tunes. The hot sun took a lot out of everyone, but by the end of the work, we were treated to a refreshing drink and ice cream. Some of the athletes from Singapore went to the nearby river to refresh themselves. The cool and fresh river water was re-energizing.

Although it was not what most of us expected, the trip to the DMZ was fun and educational. Everyone, especially those who have never experienced anything like this, will remember this for many years to come.

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