Perhaps I was inspired by my previous post. Yesterday afternoon I took the subway to Daegok, and boarded one of the regional commuter rail trains, bound for 임진각역 (Imjingak station). Imjingang is basically the end-of-the-line to the northwest of here, and lies just about 3 kilometers from the DMZ (North Korean border).
I had in mind the idea of actually seeing Camp Edwards – but I couldn't find it. My geographic memory clearly isn't perfect – I had a recollection of it sitting right on the railroad, near the main highway. But two factors intervene: I don't know which railroad it sat on, but I don't think it was the commuter line, as I remember having to take a taxi into central Munsan when I wanted to take the train into Seoul; also, Camp Edwards may not actually exist, now – the US Army has been significantly rearranging its Korean deployment over the last decade, especially moving away from major towns (such as Munsan or Dongducheon).
So I didn't find Camp Edwards. But I walked through territory that was more than a little bit familiar, and covered the distance from Imjingang to downtown Munsan on foot (about 8 kilometers, given my roundabout route). I enjoyed the scenery.
Above is the Imjingang bridge. In typical South Korean fashion, they have placed a major amusement park ("recreation park") here up against the DMZ – sort of this weird institutional tendency to pretend it's not really a major, militarized international border. So right behind me from taking this picture, on the north side of the river, there were zillions of families on Sunday outing, a little amusement-park train going around some veterans memorial statue, a ferris wheel….
The concrete pillars are the old railroad bridge, and I remember these pillars vividly. But just beyond, there is now a new railroad bridge that wasn't there in 91, and there has been much talk in the press of the new workable (but not currently actually working) rail connection with Pyeongyang. Not to mention the talk of eventually hooking South Korea's KTX (high speed rail) with Russia's! That would be cool… you could take the train from Seoul to Moscow!
Looking down, there were lots of men lazily fishing in the Imjingang (i.e. Imjin River)
Walking south, I saw lot's of lovely trees, changing with the fall weather.
Above, these are some scarecrows I saw in a field. I had this weird feeling that I spent a cold April day in this field, or one nearby, fetching a Humvee that some insane G.I. driver had flipped like a turtle into the mushy muddy rice. I worked in "vehicle recovery" here… which is to say, I had a large green tow truck (named – not by me, but appropriately – "Rocinante"), and one of my jobs was to go out and rescue stranded Army vehicles from various spots. This flipped Humvee was one of the most memorable, as it was the only instance where I was personally involved where there had been a major injury – the G.I. who'd flipped his vehicle had a broken back or something. Made me somewhat paranoid about cruising around at too-high speeds in the soft-top Humvees that were so popular then. Not so common now, since they're mostly "hardened," based on experience in Iraq, etc.
These are some flowers I saw.
I saw a man on a tractor, and he waved to me.
Later, as I walked farther south, I saw the man again, working with some others unloading a rice-threshing gadget from a truck. He hailed me, and I discovered he spoke extremely good English – he'd lived and worked 8 years in Dubai, and also in mainland China, more recently, and wanted to talk politics. It was interesting. He was worried about the "red menace" and was extolling the virtues of George Bush's hard line with North Korea. Perhaps typical of his generation in South Korea, I think.
He observed that given how South Korea is a U.S. client, geopolitically, and how the Chinese still viewed North Korea as "theirs," the DMZ was, interestingly, the place where the U.S. and China had a common border. This was fairly sophisticated thinking for a Korean farmer. I wonder how typical it is?
I kept walking…. I passed the 운천역 (Uncheon rail station), and this sign.
As the sun set I got into the outskirts of 문산읍 (literallly Munsan village, though it's clearly outgrown what we would call a village), which appeared much grown from my recollection. Here is a fairly typical sight everywhere in Korea: cranes building high-rise buildings in the middle of nowhere.
Now I'm listening to a streaming Mexican radio station from Estado de México, and thinking about the commonality of rural lifestyles, all over the world.