Korea – Travelogue

Journal Extract – DMZ Tour

The US military-led tour of the Korean border zone Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) commenced at 7:30am sharp. In charge of proceedings was poker-faced Sergeant Rivera, an American solider with a well rehearsed, distant, steely squint. With clinical delivery and detachment, he informed us of the DMZ’s many rules and regulations, along with tips on how not-to-get-shot by edgy North Korean guards. Each instruction was conveyed with precision, repeated twice and usually book ended with “let’s just have a good day folks”. I sensed some weary exasperation in his tone and felt glad I’d left my (Chinese New Year of the) rabbit costume at the hotel. Indeed, clothing deemed “faddish, extreme, torn, tattered, frayed, overly provocative or otherwise inappropriate” was disallowed, including – quote – “baggy gangster-type” garb.

Throughout the day, as Rivera ordered us about, I felt that he was able to penetrate my soul with his trademark, no-nonsense glare. It was mildly unnerving yet oddly invigorating to be bossed around – I particularly enjoyed being told twice. “No photography here. Repeat: No photography.” What a thrilling paradox to be addressed as ‘sir’ as he humoured my stupid questions, yet also be ordered around – certainly, for a few moments, I had to question my heterosexuality.