American students visit DMZ, North Korea
PANMUNJOM, South Korea (May 22, 2012) -- Seoul American Middle School students visited Camp Bonifas and the Joint Security Area on the border of North and South Korea, May 18, 2012, stepping foot into North Korea.
The annual visit has become a tradition for the students and the United Nations Command Security Battalion -- Joint Security Area, known as the JSA. It is a significant opportunity for the students to see and learn about the Demilitarized Zone, known as the DMZ, and JSA along with the history of the Korean War Armistice Agreement.
The first stop of the trip began at the Camp Bonifas JSA Visitor Center. The museum visually depicted the history of the JSA and the Military Armistice Commission Headquarters Area allowing the students to look at artifacts collected throughout the six decade history. One of the 1,292 Military Demarcation Line markers and Capt. Arthur Bonifas' coveted Monk hat are just some of the items at the museum.
Afterwards, the students traveled north into the DMZ toward the JSA accompanied by an armed UNCSB-JSA security escort. As the bus sped past the blue banner marking the southern border of the DMZ, a variety of expressions were visible from the students. Some students seemed excited as they trekked through a live minefield while others seemed uneasy from the sight of armed Republic of Korean Soldiers. Still, the chance to gaze into the North Korea was something not to be missed.
The row of blue and grey buildings dissected by a slab of concrete is what the students first saw as they walked onto "Conference Row." The stale air on "Conference Row" is something to be noted. Over sixty years of an ongoing war have resulted in this very own Joint Security Area. However, one common aspect that both sides maintain is curiosity. Students were surprised to see a young North Korean Soldier peering into the window of T-2, a conference room that straddles the North Korea-South Korean border, to get a glimpse of who was on tour.
Jonathan Harvey, a 7th grade student from SAMS, had the pleasure of touring the JSA with his father, retired Sgt. Maj. Jeff Harvey. The elder Harvey was previously assigned to the UNCSB-JSA. The UNCSB-JSA Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Edward J. Taylor, presented a unit security brassard to Jonathan Harvey for his father's previous service in the JSA.
The students finally completed their tour by visiting the UNC Check Point 3 and the infamous "Bridge of No Return." During their picnic at Camp Bonifas, 7th Graders Rebekah Lawrence and Brianna Nubine described their experience to be "scary." While other students expressed their time to be fun and exciting.
The UNCSB-JSA provides Security Escorts to over 100,000 annual visitors to the Joint Security Area to allow every visitor the opportunity to learn the rich history of the JSA.