Cheorwon DMZ – Steve Miller’s EYE #10


I awoke before dawn and traveled north of Cheorwon, past military checkpoints into the controlled area of South Korea’s Demilitarized Zone. While I had been inside this tightly guarded zone many times, the heavy fog and eerie silence, coupled with a half dozen Korean soldiers standing nearby sent a chill up my spine unrelated to the weather.

choerwon-dmz-c100-steve-miller-qiranger

Walking over frozen rice paddies, I arrived at the Togyo Reservoir. It isn’t a place listed on my must-see travel itineraries, but local residents are proud because it’s the sight of several migratory geese and cranes. When the sun, which I couldn’t see, broke the horizon, waves of geese called out and took to the sky. Their calls were almost deafening to those of us on the ground.

As we continued through the DMZ, several Red-crowned cranes picked at bits of rice still in the field. These are the largest of the Asian cranes and are known to be a symbol of good luck, longevity, and fidelity.

The Cheorwon Peace Observatory is located atop a small mountain. Walking up the hill from the lower parking lot, I passed by the remnants of an old military bunker that dated back to when the area faced fierce fighting between North and South Korean armies. Moss grew in the fine crevices created by time and war, reminding me that nothing lasts forever. With thick fog still obscuring visibility, there wasn’t much to be seen; however, my thoughts drifted back to all those who had served here under similar conditions so many years ago and the terror they must have felt not knowing what lay in the mist.

Information

  • Address: 588-14, Junggang-ri, Dongsong-eup, Cheorwon-gun, Gangwon-do / 강원 철원군 동송읍 중강리 588-14
  • Phone: +82-2-1330, +82-33-455-8275, +82-70-4124-8275
  • Closed Tuesdays, Children’s Day, Chuseok, Seollal
  • Admission W2,000
  • Parking is available; however, one must contact the observatory in advance to gain access. To get there, take a taxi from the local Dongsong bus terminal.
  • Website

The last stop on the Gyeongwon rail line is Woljeongni station. It was the sight of intense fighting during the Korean war and while no longer in service, does show the remains of an old iron locomotive that once traveled into North Korea.

Information

  • Address: Hongwon-ri, Cheorwon-eup, Cheorwon-gun, Gangwon-do
    강원 철원군 철원읍 홍원리
  • Phone: +82-2-1330, +82-33-450-5558/9, +82-33-450-5365
  • Closed Tuesdays, January 1st, Children’s Day, Chuseok, Seollal
  • Admission W4,000
  • Parking is available; however, this is located inside the DMZ. Usually a tour or special arrangements need to be made before traveling here. Cars and buses are allowed entry only at specific times. Contact the offices for complete information.
  • Website

The Taegukki, or Korean Flag flies high above Baekma Hill, a small piece of land that saw some of the fiercest fighting during the war. Over a period of ten days, North and South Korean forces battled back and forth for control 24 times. The landscape was virtually destroyed, making it look like a bare white horse. Towering twin spires rise into the sky remember those who have fallen, while the peace pavilion on top looks forward to North Korea.

choerwon-dmz-c100-steve-miller-qiranger

Dopian Temple isn’t anything out of the ordinary, despite dating back to the 9th century. However, that doesn’t mean it was devoid of charm or secrets to be found by those with observant eyes.

Information

  • Address: 450, Gwanu-ri, Dongsong-eup, Cheorwon-gun, Gangwon-do
    강원도 철원군 동송읍 도피동길 23 (동송읍)
  • Phone: +82-2-1330, +82-33-455-2471
  • Directions:

From Suyu Station (Seoul Subway Line 4), Exit 3, take Bus 36 to Yeoncheon Station.
* Bus schedule: 03:50-25:00, 7min intervals
From Yeoncheon Station, take Bus 39-2 and get off at Sintanri Station.
* Bus schedule: 06:30-22:10, 20min intervals
Transfer to Bus 39-3 and get off at Dopiansa Temple Station.
* Bus schedule: 07:00-23:30, 1hr intervals

 choerwon-dmz-c100-steve-miller-qiranger

This video was filmed with the Canon EOS C100 provided by Canon Korea.

Transportation and accommodations provided by the Korean Tourism Organization.

And now for some extra clips from the series…


Imjingak in the DMZ



The Imjin River serves as the border between South and North Korea near Paju. Imjingak is a park on the banks where a bridge causes the river and was once used to transport goods into North Korea and where POWs were repatriated after the Korean War.

Seat Benches



While in the DMZ, I came across this rest bench inside the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel.

BREAKING NEWS: North Korea suspect in latest Cyber Attack

steve miller - qiranger - breaking newsTuesday afternoon, Yonhap News reported that North Korea has been named as a suspect in the recent June 25th cyber attacks against Blue House and several other government websites on the anniversary of the onset of the Korean War. If proven true, this marks the second successful high profile attack on South Korean networks this year.

Is North Korea that adept at cyber warfare or is South Korea incompetent at defending itself?



BREAKING NEWS: North Korea Calls For WAR!

Tuesday, North Korea stated that it will move to back away from the 1953 armistice that effectively ended the Korean War.

CNN Article

In doing so, North Korea also vows to cease communication with the US. This is interesting, given Dennis Rodman’s recent visit with his new best friend.



While this most likely will not mean a return to hostilities, it does pose some questions, especially for the DMZ and JSA area between the two countries. What do you think will happen?

The Incheon Landing

Today we embark on a new series about Incheon, South Korea. The truth of the matter is that most of us never take the time to go back to Incheon after landing in Korea. So this month, I thought I’d take a look at some of the more historical and fun places there.

incheon landing operation memorial hall arch - steve miller - qiranger - johanne millerYou can read more about the museum and the operation at The Korea Blog, but a special travel tip for you here is that don’t really follow the official instructions on getting there. The best way to get there is take Incheon Subway Line 1 to Dongchun station and then get a cab there. It cost us W3300 from station to door and was far easier than waiting for one of the buses going to the area (and then having to walk for “5 minutes.”


The majority of the video was filmed with the Canon HFS11 and RODE Microphone; however, I removed most of the sound from the video, since I wound up doing a voice over. What I also didn’t include in the write-up was a score of pictures taken by Jo. She really shined here. Some amazing pictures.

I thought it interesting when researching the landing itself, that most military scholars count the operation as one of the best military victories in modern warfare. The surprise nature of the attack, coupled with lack of casualties and swift victory earned its respect. However, one scholar indicates that because it MacArthur ordered a “slow” advance on Seoul (11 days), that portion of the operation was a failure and negated any gains made by the landing. I’m not sure I agree with the assessment, for after traveling over much of Korea, the terrain is tough and unforgiving.

What do you think?

Also, per the video, what’s your favorite landing?

The Battle of Osan

Ask many about the Korean War and they’ll probably be able to share with you the highlights. June 25th, North Korea crossed the 38th Parallel and launched an all-out invasion of the South. This war is one that very few talk about in the United States and most associate with the television show M*A*S*H. Since I live near Osan, the war has special meaning to me.

Osan Battle - Korean War - QiRangerThis is Sema Station on Line 1. It sits about 5km from my house and is adjacent to one of the most important battle sites in the Korean War; however, when I mention it, almost no one knows what I’m talking about. Not only is this site important, it’s the spot where US (and thus foreign) soldiers first engaged the North Koreans.


Task Force Smith was formed out of the Eighth Army’s 21st Infantry Regiment and 52nd Artillery Battalion. This accounted for just over 500 men and they dug in just north of Osan, despite having half the number of troops they needed and were stuck with outdated and ineffective weapons.

Beginning at 8am on July 5th, two waves of North Korean armor and over 5000 troops reached their position. With only one-in-six ever seeing combat before, weapons that couldn’t penetrate the advancing tanks, and being outnumbered ten-to-one, it’s amazing that the unit managed to hold the lines until 2:30pm when an orderly withdraw was issued.

The US troops fell back after delaying the advancing army for about 7 hours. This battle, and others like it, allowed UN Forces to rally and cease the North Korean advance near Busan. Later, Task Force Smith would return to Osan and join members that participated in the Incheon Landing to finally roust North Korea.

Osan Battle - Korean War - QiRangerThe Battle of Osan Monument stands in memorial to these brave men that came to the aid of Korea. Currently, the only way to get to this roadside monument is to take Line 1 and exit at Sema station. It is located a short distance away to the southeast. However, bus service will be starting soon.

Osan Battle - Korean War - QiRangerOsan Battle - Korean War - QiRangerFor complete information on the Battle of Osan, check the Wiki.

Sixty

It was sixty years ago today that North Korean troops launched an attack across the 38th Parallel. The resulting conflict devastated the peninsula. Unfortunately, that war never ended. It is my sincere hope that the events so long ago, never repeat themselves.

For more information on the Korean War, check out the Wiki!

May peace finally settle and be long lasting!

The War Memorial of Korea

The War Memorial of Korea

The War Memorial of Korea

Originally this weekend I had planned on hiking Inwangsan, but a steady downpour on Saturday lead me to change my plans (because I hate being muddy!). I’m glad my plans did change, as I had the opportunity to visit the War Memorial of Korea. It’s an amazing exhibit hall, that’s dedicated to providing an educational and emotional experience to visitors.

The Lonely Planet guide book recommends spending at least 3 hours there… something I think is a bit light. You see, there is so much to see and learn there, that one can easily spend a full day taking in the over 13,000 items on display.

The Memorial opened in 1994 and has a steady flow of visitors. When you first arrive (I recommend by subway, since parking is quite limited), you are greeted by an amazing display of military hardware ranging from the small (rocket launchers) to the large (a B-52).

Military Hardware

Military Hardware

Outside the main hall are also six distinct areas that pay tribute to armed conflict that are worth seeing. The Korean War Monument, The Two Brothers, The Clock of Hope, and the Monument to those killed in action being the most moving in my opinion. Walking the grounds (which is free) can easily take a few hours to accomplish. Then you can enter the massive three-story museum structure.

Inside you’ll seen the history of war in Korea dating back to the its settlement days. I really wish I had more time to view these items, but time was running short on my day. It’s something I’ll have to go back and see again.

For the most part, the museum area focuses on the Korean War. There are several movies available to watch (Korean, English, Chinese, and Japanese languages available), as well as a guided audio tour. When I return, I’ll have to spend more time watching the films, as they are well made, but I simply didn’t have the time to wait my turn for the English version of the movies.

You can see more photos from my visit here as well as my video on YouTube.

Heading Home…

It’s 26th May and I find myself heading home, sailing above the Continental United States at some 37,000 feet. My stay in Washington, DC with Jo and my brother has been one of my favorite holidays, because it allowed me to achieve two of my pastimes in one visit: spending time with family and seeing new things.

Both Jo and I had been to Washington, DC before, so seeing the city was not new to us. But what was fun was going to places together and seeing new things within its borders. What also made the trip great was having a personal guide in my brother. Here are some of the highlights from our trip. I had originally planned a video featuring some of the sights, but thought a written account would be better suited for memory.

At the Capitol

Jo and I took the opportunity to visit the US Capitol Building when we got to DC. While I had been there before, it has been nearly 25 years since I last took a tour of the seat of government. One of the things that has recently been changed at the Capitol is its Visitor Center. The facility is awesome with a full scale casting of Freedom. It’s here that you pick up your tour tickets and see a brief history of the building, but the gem is the exhibit hall. While photography is not allowed (Jo and I saw docents yelling at patrons to stop taking pictures), the items on display are fantastic. One could easily spend two or three hours learning about the Capitol through its two hundred plus years of existence.

After the tour, we sat for a brief time in the House Gallery. Only a few Representatives were on hand to debate a new Aviation transportation bill, but none-the-less, it was interesting to see our government in action. Following this observation, Jo and I walked over to the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.

Upon entering the main hall, I was instantly transported back to my 8th grade field trip to DC. I recall seeing the golden images on the ceiling and using the word “rad” the first time as I sought to capture it all. Jo and I walked the halls and viewed the exhibits as best we could, because our time was short (we had a wedding rehearsal to attend). While some of the items on display were interesting, nothing caught my attention more than the viewing gallery of the main hall. There’s just something special about seeing all those books.

As I mentioned before, we had a great guide in my brother for an amazing night tour of the city’s monument. While both Jo and I had seen many of the monuments before, some new ones had been dedicated or completed since our last visits. In fact, for me, the last time I had seen most of these monuments was back in 1984.

Marine Corp Memorial

Marine Corp Memorial

The first stop on the tour is the Marine Corp Memorial, or more commonly known as the Iwo Jima Memorial. Its massive rendering of the famous picture of those service men erecting the flag is certainly iconic. One of the things that I didn’t realize was that it was President Kennedy that ordered the flag to fly 24/7, one of the few monuments that allows this.

A Powerful Quote

A Powerful Quote

Stop number two is the FDR Memorial. This was something new to me, and to be honest, one of the most impressive. While dedicated in 1997, I had never heard of its existence until this trip. It’s a massive monument sprawling over 7.5 acres and recalls the history of America’s only four term President. For those who have never been to the monument, it has an amazing water feature that flows through it. Each of the four sections (depicting different eras) has a waterfall. As the events became more complex, so do the waterfalls. Sculptures also depict the life and times of Americans as he rebuilt the country.

The next two stops honor American Presidents Jefferson and Washington. Both monuments had long construction cycles with various enhancements added at latter dates. For example, the bronze statue of Jefferson was added in 1947, even though the monument was completed in 1942. Also, many may not realize this, but the Washington Monument was the tallest structure in the world until the Eiffel Tower dethroned it in 1889.

The Capitol Building was the next stop, but was poorly illuminated (we saw the back side). What was interesting was that crews were setting up for Sunday’s concert. Since it was starting to get late, we opted to pass on a drive-by of the White House and move on to some of my favorite places.

The World War II Memorial resides on the Mall at what was once the Eastern Rainbow Pool. It opened in 2004 and sees about 4.4 million visitors each year. It’s dedicated to the men and women who served and contributed during the war. Since we were visiting on Memorial Day weekend, the memorial was even more beautiful due to the flowers honoring those who have passed.

Lincoln

Lincoln

The Lincoln Memorial is probably one of my favorites. There’s something about this Doric Temple that just moves me. In fact, for me, it is the icon of Washington, DC – even more so than the Capitol Building. The memorial of course boasts the large statue of Lincoln, but also two of his speeches. Many flock to its steps to sit and reflect as the night passes and couples converse on dates.

By far the most eerie of the monuments we visited was the Korean War Memorial. Both Jo and I felt uneasy walking its grounds. There was a sense of heaviness that weighed on my shoulders and at times made me feel like I was being watched. The monument has an amazing layout as noted in Wikipedia:

Troops

Troops

The memorial is in the form of a triangle intersecting a circle. Within the triangle are 19 stainless steel statues designed by Frank Gaylord, each larger than life-size, between 7 feet 3 inches and 7 feet 6 inches. The figures represent a squad on patrol, drawn from each branch of the armed forces; fifteen of the figures are from the U.S. Army, two are from the Marine Corps, one is a Navy Corpsman, and one is an Air Force Forward Air Observer. They are dressed in full combat gear, dispersed among strips of granite and juniper bushes, which represent the rugged terrain of Korea. When reflected in the pool, there appears to be 38 soldiers, representing the 38th parallel. To the north of the statues is a path, forming one side of the triangle. Behind, to the south, is a 164 foot-long black granite wall, created by Louis Nelson Associates, with photographic images sandblasted into it depicting soldiers, equipment and people involved in the war. This forms the second side of the triangle. The third side of the triangle, facing towards the Lincoln Memorial, is open.

To the north of the statues and path is the United Nations Wall, a low wall listing the 22 members of the United Nations that contributed troops or medical support to the Korean War effort.

Images in the Wall

Images in the Wall

The circle contains the Pool of Remembrance, a shallow 30-foot-diameter pool lined with black granite and surrounded by a grove of trees with benches. Inscriptions list the numbers killed, wounded, missing in action, and held as prisoners of war, and a nearby plaque in inscribed: “Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.” Additionally, right next to the numbers of American soldiers are those of the United Nations troops in the same categories. In the south side of the memorial, there are three bushes of the Rose of Sharon hibiscus plant, South Korea’s national flower.

A further granite wall bears the simple message, inlaid in silver: “Freedom Is Not Free”.

Perhaps why I am so moved by this monument, is that I call Korea home for much of the year, and with recent tensions growing with the North, we may find ourselves one again in combat.

Vietnam

Vietnam

The Vietnam Memorial was our next stop. It had just opened when I first visited Washing, DC as a boy, but seeing at night really moved me. The Three Soldiers Statue almost brought me to tears, as I wondered how many men and women we’ve lost not only in this conflict, but in all combined.

The last stop on the tour took us to something I never knew about, yet was unveiled in 1979 – The Einstein Memorial. It sits adjacent to the National Academy of Sciences and consists of a large bronze statue of Albert Einstein and his manuscripts. The large base is a celestial map, accurate to the date of the Monument’s dedication. Another feature of the display is its curved wall that is able to reflect sound back to you when standing at the focal point.

At Monticello

At Monticello

On Sunday, we made the two-plus hour drive down to see Monticello. This estate of Thomas Jefferson is quite impressive. The new visitor center has many exhibits from his life and times and one can easily spend a couple of hours reading and exploring this area of the grounds. Then take the short walk up past the graveyard to the actual residential area.

While Monticello is really impressive, I think Jo and I were more enamored with the vegetable garden than anything else. It’s still in use today along Mulberry Row (where the slaves lived) and offers some amazing views of the Virginia countryside. Vegetables grown today are shared among the employees of the site, which I think is quite amazing. Its vineyard has also won many awards.

At the American History Museum

At the American History Museum

After such a long day on the road, we slept in and opted to visit the American History Museum at the Smithsonian Institute. While I had been to several museums on the Mall, I had never stepped into this one. Jo really wanted to see Julia Child’s kitchen, and we managed to do that just before closing; however, the most moving exhibit was Old Glory: The Star Spangled Banner. It’s the original flag that flew over Ft. McHenry during the War of 1812 that inspired Francis Scott Key to write our national anthem. I am not ashamed to say it moved me to tears. The flag is massive and no picture I can present (photography is prohibited), can possibly prepare you for its size when you come and see it.

Our final day in DC was marred by rain. Nonetheless, Jo and I ventured out to see some historic sites. First, we stopped off at the Sully site (a location my brother hasn’t even visited!). It’s two farmhouses that were owned by Unionists during the Civil War. After Virginia had seceded, the men fled north and left the women to take care of the farmland. During the course of the war, it was used as a hospital and both Northern and Southern troops stopped over. Following this visit, we took a few hours to tour the Udvar-Hazy annex of the Air & Space Museum.

So that completes my retelling of the week’s past events… for more photos you can visit the album.