New hiking trails in Korean DMZ offer rare access to forbidden areas

For most South Koreans, a chance to enter the demilitarized zone, the heavily fortified buffer that has divided the peninsula since the end of the Korean War in 1953, has been rare.

However, a series of newly opened DMZ Peace Trails is allowing curious civilians to get a closer glimpse of North Korea.

On a recent guided tour at the first Peace Trail to open, in Goseong, located on the East Coast of South Korea, a group of around 20 tourists trekked along a trail with rugged coastline on one side and dense forest on the other. Shrubs of sweetbrier, whose fragrant pink flowers are a symbol of the area, stood alongside barbed wire-topped fences and signs warning of landmines.

“This is a very important venue,” said tourist Lee Hyun-mi. “We can feel the scar of the war here.”

Lee said she had seen this trail before from an observation deck nearby and wished that she could trek the 2-kilometer path one day.

“Now that the government has opened this area, I’m so happy,” she said. “Walking along the trail, with every step I’m hoping peace will get closer for the two Koreas.”

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