Monday 23 July 2012

14 hours in JeongDongJin Part 2

I sat in the train waiting room for a while, reading and watching people coming and going. It was coming up to 7am. Which felt more like lunchtime to me as I'd been at Jeong Dong Jin since 3.15am. I asked at the station desk about the bus to one of the main sights Unification Park (Tongil Gongwon).

Unification park is a small area by the sea where the Korean government have exhibited three sea faring vessels. All of them have some connection to North Korea. The largest is a warship, built in the US and used briefly in WWII, then the Korean War and the first Gulf War. The Korean Navy used the ship for 27 years until it was retired in 1999. It is (apparently) the only warship on display on land in the world. (Korea loves facts like this.) The second thing to see is a North Korean submarine, captured just off the coast of Jeong Dong Jin in 1996. It was making a reconnaissance mission and carried 25 'Red Guerrilla' from the DPRK. The vessel allegedly holds a maximun of 27, and I know that North Koreans are small, but having been inside I have no idea how these 25 men were able to function inside such a small space. I'm sure they must have accidentally hit a few switches when they were moving around! Finally there is a small wooden boat to see. This is the newest addition to the park, having been used in 2009. One night in September, 11 North Koreans entered the boat on their escape course to the south. It took them 4 days to get from Gimchaek City to Jumunjin (up the coast from Jeong Dong Jin.) It took them a year to organise the escape, of which I'm sure every day they were worried about being uncovered by the authorities and sent to a prison camp.
Before I could get to Unification Park however, I had half an hour to wait for the bus, so I headed to the bus stop to wait there. The rain was still coming down, and a swarm of Korean women wearing plastic raincoats were standing at the bus stop. No one was sitting down because the seats were wet, so I squeezed through and popped down my polystyrene seat-mat. (The best 2,000won I've ever spent!) I read for a little longer until the bus came. A fifteen minute bus ride later I arrived at Tongil Park, only to find the site empty and a sign saying opening time was 9.00am. Great! It was wet, cold and blustery! As I walked along the road to take a picture of the ship, I spied a car driving into the car park. So walking back in I knocked at the small ticket booth to beg a place to wait out of the rain. The lady inside took pity on me and I was soon sitting on the sofa with a small cup of coffee in my hand.

As I sat there, other workers began to filter in. A couple of guys in military uniforms walked past and a stern looking ajumma with a mop gave me the once over. I was lucky and the kind ticket lady let me go into the ship 1/2 hour before official opening time. Inside the empty warship, alone, it was pretty creepy. I have a huge fear of mannequins, seriously I really hate them and they scare me to death. So walking around the boat, I must have looked like sniper. I approached each window and room slowly, slowly inching in stealthily, to make sure there were no weird fake humans. I can happily report that there are no mannequins at the unification Park. ^.^

Inside the boat there are numerous displays but as the information is all in Korean, I whipped around pretty quickly (ok it was also because I'm a wimp and was scared). At the front of the boat, because this is Korea, there was a life-size picture of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in the famous pose from Titanic, their faces removed so that you may recreate it yourself (from an ex-warship...?! Oh Korea.) The rain had started to drizzle again so I only spent a small amount of time on deck, my umbrella blowing inside out over and over.

Next I donned my hard hat to take a peek inside the submarine. Boy it's small in there! I almost didn't go all the way through because it made me feel a little claustrophobic, but after a stern word to myself 'Stop being such a wimp!' I squeezed through. The equipment was really old fashioned (I'm not sure if this is because it's from the 90s or because it is North Korean). I was at the end in about 30 seconds, and there was a definite lack of periscope. I was very disappointed about this! I even walked back through to double check I hadn't missed it. I'm not sure if there was another level in the sub, because there certainly didn't seem anywhere for the sailors to sleep or rest. 

The small wooden boat is not much to see, you can peer into the top window. But the size of the boat and the story behind it is more interesting than the vessel anyway.

Along to the end of the park was a large staircase leading to a military lookout tower. When I saw the soldiers walking along earlier, I assumed they worked at the park and were there to have your picture taken with, but then it dawned on me that this was a working military post and they were stationed there to make sure there were no more infiltrations from the north. A little reminder that tensions still exist between the two nations.

After my early morning sight seeing I made it back to the main town to hunt out some breakfast.

A little bit scared before going through the submarine

Old TVs

Hmm what's this?

The boat used by the North Korean defectors

Military Lookout at the top of the hill.

The best waffle I've ever eaten

My new panorama app on my phone.

The train station, right next to the sea

To read about part one of my Jeong Dong Jin Adventure click here
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1 comment:

  1. Naughty girl carving your name on private property, especially with guards about!!