Before I found out Paju was a wonderland of design and green buildings I went to Paju to visit my grandmother's grave near the military base there.  Paju is very close to the border of North Korea.  After getting onto the base, my family and I paid our respects and then went to the park near the DMZ.  The term "park" is a very loose term of what this place was.  There was a Korean war memorial next to an amusement park area (some place like the Santa Monica pier with Viking rides and carousels).  There were restaurants and ice cream vendors doting the path to the Imjingak Viewing Station.

I don't know if it was because I'd been reading The Crying of Lot 49 but I keep thinking of my experience through this postmodern surreal.  It started off rather normally, we went through the war memorial area which featured statues of soldiers and images of a united Korea.  There was the "Let the Iron Horse Run" memorial, the "Iron Horse" was a train that used to run through North and South Korea.  You could see bullet holes alongside the original cars.  There was wall of colorful ribbons that have wishes and remembrances written on them.  Then the Imjingak building appears almost out of nowhere as this incredibly beautifully designed place.  When you get to the top floor of the building you can pay 500 won (50 cents) to see parts of North Korea.  I saw just a truck drive by and one person walking by.  I heard sometimes the North Korean government pays actors to live around the border and look happy to show all the curious gawkers on the South Korean side that they live normal healthy lives.  I didn't see any of it.  The area between the South and North border are surrounded by these lush green squares of farming accompanied by a river.  The land between the DMZ is one of the most pristine ecologically sound places since it is undisturbed by people and development.

I know it is a building probably intended to commemorate the collective memories of a united Korea but I thought it was so strange that it markets itself as this hybrid bougie cafe and DMZ experience.  I think of North Korea abstractly as a parallel universe, a though experiment that is played out in real life. I thought of all the strange and terrible things that go on there, and then suddenly the rush of people buying diet sodas and processed chips at the CU that blasts Bar Bar Bar seems like a surreality.  And as I exited, I saw the same sight I saw before the whirling merry-go-round, the vendors of ice cream, the screams of people riding the Viking and it all seemed like some jarring simulacrum, almost like a plastic cover slipped over real life.

Anyways here are some pictures from the place.  I was really caught off-guard by the whole experience I didn't even take pictures of anything because I thought the entire trip was just going to pay respects to my grandmother (death anniversary).  I just wanted to clarify that this isn't the DMZ package experience most people experience, this was just a glimpse of the North Korean border.

North Korean border viewing station
imjingak signs


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