In Seoul for one day

Old Jun 24th, 2016, 08:18 PM
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In Seoul for one day

I will be on a cruise ship next spring, and we have a one day stop in Incheon. Most of my group is planning on visiting the DMZ, but I am tending toward seeing Seoul instead. It seems like I could learn more about the Korean culture in Seoul than driving to the DMZ. But I hear rave reviews about the DMZ tour. With just one day and with a choice of Seoul or DMZ, am I making the right decision?
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Old Jun 24th, 2016, 09:20 PM
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I think the choice of whether to go to the DMZ is a VERY personal one. Although I spent a month in South Korea, I didn't go to the DMZ: The more I thought about it, the ONLY real reason I could identify for me to visit it would be that it is a border between two sides of an ongoing civil war, and honestly, for ME, I couldn't justify making that a "tourist" destination.

I have, over the years, felt the importance of paying my respects to those who fought or died in various wars -- including, while in South Korea, a stop at the UN Cemetery in Busan, and in other trips, visits to Auschwitz / Birkenau, Hiroshima, etc. Those visits were, for me, ways to honor those who had lived or died; ways to pay homage to the lessons we can learn about the atrocities of war and the need to find peaceful solutions to even the most intractable of dilemmas. I couldn't find a way to imagine that a visit to the DMZ would engender those feelings for me. Instead, it seemed to me like honoring a war, and it seemed voyeuristic, and it even seemed disrespectful to ask those who guard the DMZ to have to worry about tourists when they have such heavy responsibilities. I just couldn't bring myself to go. It really came down to a gut reaction for me -- it just did NOT feel right to ME.

Your call.

There is more than enough to keep you busy in Seoul if that's your choice. If interested, you can click on my screen name to find my report -- the sections on Seoul are near the beginning and end of this very long thread, as I was there at both the start and end of my month. Use the search function to find the relevant sections.

Hope that helps!
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Old Jun 25th, 2016, 03:48 AM
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I found our DMZ trip fascinating and provided a great insight into the whole sorry saga of the Korean War. It is a personal decision and it felt right to me, and many South Koreans we spoke fo seem to feel the same way. Unlike kje, I found I had no personal dilemma in deciding to visit. Quite the opposite, I feel it is important to visit these places to fully appreciate how foolishly governments and politician have behaved. Seems that it's true that the only lesson we learn from history, is that we never learn from history.

With just one day, you clearly can't do both and Seoul has a lot of attractions you could easily cover in one very busy day. There are entries with photos and detail of both places on the blog of our trip there last year@

https://accidentalnomads.com/category/south-korea/
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Old Jun 25th, 2016, 04:31 AM
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Thank you for the two thoughtful responses. Pretty much summarizes the dilemma re which to do. The DMZ would be fascinating, but do I want this to be my only exposure to Korean culture? We will also be stopping in Busan and Jeju-do, but... The huge pitfalls of taking a cruise instead of truly visiting a country. I will think on it more, and also read your trip reports. Thank you.
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Old Jun 25th, 2016, 06:08 AM
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I agree with kja on this one. I didn't visit the DMZ on my first trip to South Korea (I, too have a TR), and decided against visiting on my upcoming trip. I have visited Auschwitz-Birkenau, and the ruined cathedrals in Coventry and Berlin, and I grew up in post-WWII England, when there were still bomb sites in London. I really don't need any more reminders of the horrors of war - and if I did they are on full display on TV and the internet.

The DMZ is an active war zone putting on a show for tourists. Seoul is a big, vibrant city full of Koreans, with several worthwhile sights.
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Old Jun 30th, 2016, 11:35 PM
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Personally, I was in Korea for a year and I didn't want to see the DMZ because I didn't want to see the tension between the South and the North. It makes me uncomfortable that is it a tourist destination as kja already said.
Instead, I choose to do a Seoul Secret City Walk Tour with Oneday Korea (http://www.onedaykorea.com/tours/seo...ity-walk-tour/) which was really good ! They have many tours and you can even create yours, so it's really convenient

I hope you'll enjoy your little day in Korea !
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Old Jul 17th, 2016, 08:09 PM
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Just FYI - I ended up joining another group of cruisers planning to spend the day in Seoul. I think the name of the tour supplier is Access China (The group used Access China to book several trips during the cruise, including China ports.) Rest of my group is going to the DMZ. Thank you for your help on this.
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Old Jul 17th, 2016, 09:31 PM
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Seoul is, IMO, a very interesting city -- enjoy!
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Old Jul 18th, 2016, 04:06 AM
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Enjoy your time In Seoul. A fascinating city.
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Old Jul 18th, 2016, 07:51 PM
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We were in Seoul last year for two days for work and found our half-day DMZ tour provocative, fascinating and not at all exploitive - after all, it is primarily a UN zone. We had been advised by journalist friends who lived there that the JSA and border area were must-sees and the tunnels deserved a pass. The traditional lunch at the train area felt very authentic, much more so than many restaurants in Seoul. And the interaction with our very educated guide was a way to gain insight into the culture and political climate of the whole region.

We were blown away by how close North Korea is to the South. The one-way trip was about 90 minutes, if that, and you start seeing North Korean villages about half way there. Still had plenty of time to sightsee upon our return to Seoul.
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Old Jul 24th, 2016, 11:06 AM
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For a quick trip to Seoul, I jsut want to point out that the National Folk Museum is on the grounds of Gyeongbokgung, one of the mjaor palaces to visit, so it is easy to see both. The other place I highly recommend is the Gwangjang Market, the central market of Seoul and the oldest market. It is a rabbit's warren of alleys with food and a traditional section of Korean clothing. I suggest stopping at the bindatteok stand, where women are freshly grinding mung beans for the many pancakes they produce.
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