Seoul — Atrocity tourism and what might be termed the tourism of divisive obstacles (fences, barbed wire, mine fields) can be great money earners. Former concentration and extermination camps in Europe bring in currency even as visitors shake with stunned grief and moral disturbance – tears and foreboding as valuable currency.
In South Korea, the money earner is the Demilitarised Zone, shortened to the seemingly innocuous DMZ. Euphemised in such a manner, and one can forget the tens of thousands of helmeted men who gaze at each other at border points, or the thousands of artillery pieces in concealed spaces waiting to be deployed in a moment of annihilating fury.
Gazing across a territory with millions of unexploded mines, a territory that, ironically enough, is meant to be demilitarised, chills the blood. Here, along the 38th parallel, another legacy of great power cruelty and avarice, two Koreas face each other on one of the most heavily armed borders on the planet. This may be the site of the next regional, or world war, one that promises to be over with apocalyptic brevity.
Time and history are suspended here, a form of cryogenic storage. There are monuments to the signing of the armistice that never formally concluded the war of 1950-1953. There are scrap items such as shot up trains gloomily present in rusty solemnity. A crisp, biting air adds to the atmosphere as the field glasses are deployed across from the Dora observatory. Birds of prey hover…