08-Apr-2002 -- North Korea is a reclusive regime and is virtually off-limits to most outsiders, especially for a South Korean like me. The two Koreas are still technically at war since 1950 because the Korean War never ended with a truce. I require written permissions from both North and South Korean governments if I were to traverse beyond the militarized border. This type of exploration isn't easy to get permission off of; I don't think the North Korean government likes someone wielding GPS around the land, considering I'd probably be accused of spying if I did it even in my country about three decades ago. I plan to make attempts from the borders wherever and whenever possible. This is the first one.
If the National Road #1 was not severed by the militarized border, this road can be used to access the confluence point. I'd take a ride to the west from Kaesong, the southernmost North Korean city (which was actually a South Korean city before a military takeover in 1950) and I'd be within about 3km away from it in an hour. But that's something I can try when I have permission. The alternate is to try looking from the bordering South Korean land.
The island of Gyodong is the closest body of land in South Korea from the confluence point. According to the map, I should be able to have a look at the North Korean land containing the confluence point on a clear day from here. This island is a part of Ganghwa-gun, Incheon and I took a series of bus to set my foot on the Ganghwa-eup, main town of Ganghwa-gun, first. From here, I took an hourly ride to Changhu-ri, at the west end of Ganghwa-gun, where the ferry to Gyodong is located.
The boat ferry to Gyodong isn't that expensive (750 won, equivalent to 60 US cents) but I needed to fill out a small form about my identification and the reason of visit. This was because Gyodong is located beyond what's known as 'Mintongseon', or 'Civilian-Limit Line'. The military imposed this line because, you guessed it, the area borders North Korea. Civilians traversing this line after receiving the permission to do so has restricted freedom as to what one can do. Photographing is one of the limitations. Since Gyodong has several tourist attractions, I suppose the photography is not completely off-limits, but I had to be careful as to what I can shoot.
This time around, I did not have much time, nor had little information about transportation in Gyodong, so I couldn't make much inroads towards the confluence. Besides, the sky was dusty due to the severe sand winds coming from China and anything beyond a couple of kilometers was invisible, so I couldn't take pictures of anything beyond the border anyway. The main picture was shot near Gyodong 'Hyanggyo' (traditional confucian school), one of the tourist attactions here. This was about 36.3km from the confluence point. If I can make it to the northern edge of the island, I might be able to get to less than 30km from it. Hope it's a clear day then, because that's the best I can do without crossing the border.