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Hacktreks in South Korea

Blitz - three day invasion of Seoul
Murray Walker

Seoul, Korea.

My Taiwanese tourist visa was only valid for a month so I had to head out on a visa run to Seoul, Korea. Hong Kong would've been the cheapest option, but there's a nasty bug there that propelled me further afield. I settled in at some cheap hostel. The public transport that got me there is comfortable and extensive. My first morning started off a little premature for my liking but I wanted to suss out the embassy before it opened. As I was walking from the station some guy gave me the evil eye and then started shouting at me. He must've thought I was American. I just ignored him. I saw him again later laughing and dancing on some steps. I'm thinking 'nutcase,' but I could be wrong.

The visa procedure was seamless. I had all my falsified documents ready and they didn't even want to see them. I love applying for visas to countries that no one wants to go to. It's so easy. Maybe I should just avoid the hot spots until my passport serves me more than just a fancy form of ID.

Walking through the market postprandial on my second day, I decided to perch myself at one of the stands and sample the Korean pancakes. My Korean roommate in Vancouver used to make them all the time and I miss the flavour. It's a pancake type thing stuffed with various veggies, meats and sundry. It's a tasty snack when dunked in soya-garlic sauce. The two old-timers positioned next to me, who were snacking away on kimchi (salted and then fermented veggies) and throwing back sojo (local drink), offered me some hearty smiles and I was soon on the team doing my best not to cringe as the vodka-like fluid cleansed my tonsils on the way down. Sojo doesn't have a very high alcohol content, but I still reckon it could be used as boat fuel. These old guys must drink it everyday because they made me feel like the ultimate prude. The time spent with them was short, but special. It really is the little things that mean so much. When I left the party my bearing system resembled a stray compass in a magnet factory. At the best of times I struggle to painlessly orientate myself, but at that moment I was utterly useless. Out came the map and some vigorous charades directed at some sheep-eyed hawkers and soon enough I was within the safety of familiarity.

On my third and final day I took the tour up to the demilitarized zone. It's a one hour bus ride from the city centre. Although you do spend a lot of time in the bus, you still learn a thing or to regarding the tension between North and South. The main attraction is descending into one of the tunnels dug by the North with the intention of sending troops into the South for a surprise invasion. During the 70's a top North Korean official defected South and shared a few secrets. Supposedly, there are twenty such tunnels although only four have been uncovered. The first in 1974 and then three more up to 1990. The biggest tunnel would allow for 30000 troops to be sent through in the space of an hour. On discovery of the first tunnel, the North immediately claimed that the tunnels were dug by the South. This was proven false as the digging strokes are in a southerly direction. They then said that it was just a mining operation. They had coated the tunnel walls with coal to legitimize the innocence of their activities. It was soon shown that no mineral was available as the ground is composed of granite. In order to escape detection, the diggers had not used dynamite thereby resorting to the painstakingly slow process of digging. At only one metre a day, they would probably reach Seoul in about 100 years. I'm not sure how such an invasion would therefore seem plausible when the future could render the two nations as one.

Alas, my time ran out. The blitz three days left my head spinning. I'll definitely head back with the luxury of time. South Korea is a fascinating place, maybe I''ll get to see the North one day too.

© Murray Walker June 2003
muzwalks@hotmail.com

Murray in Taiwan

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