I was traveling this week on Monday, so I will do the Mundane Monday Challenge on Friday this week. A theme that interests me for this challenge is to photograph man-made objects in the middle of nature. The natural frame gives them a beauty that they do not otherwise possess.
From Seoul yesterday we toured the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). This is a stretch of land 2 km on either side of the border between North and South Korea that is devoid of buildings and military equipment (but there are land mines and tunnels buried beneath).
First we toured one of these tunnels, known as the third tunnel, unearthed in 1978. It was built by North Korea as a way to invade the South and discovered by chance by the South Korean military. No pictures were allowed in the tunnel.
A later part of the tour took us to an overlook, where we could see into North Korean territory. Propaganda music played on a loudspeaker as we tourists put coins into pay binoculars and took panorama shots on iphones and androids. This guard tower looks north, as the ivy encroaches.
My teenage kids were there; this tour reminded me a bit of a tour I took of East Berlin and Checkpoint Charlie when I was close to their age, a city divided, before the Berlin Wall fell. Uniformed guards, barbed wire, stories of harrowing escapes and families torn apart.
The last stop on the tour was the Dorasan train station, built to connect the north and south by rail. On February 20, 2002, US President George W Bush visited the station together with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and gave a speech in support of Korean unification.
But the shiny new-looking station still sits largely idle, waiting for trains and passengers that never come. The tragedy is that while Germany has reunited and inched onward, in fits and starts, into the 21st century, Korea remains mired in the cold-war past. The guard towers, barbed wire, and bunker jokes told by the tour guides have become mundane. Meanwhile grandparents grow old and pass on, never knowing their grandchildren.