Friday, August 11, 2017

Defending Seoul

Seoul, South Korea, April 17, 2017. I knew I was in trouble.

The silence was broken by a whirring sound close behind me. A military security camera was locking onto me. I quickly put my camera away, but it was too late: an armed soldier was walking down an embankment towards me.

A couple hours earlier I had started my walk along part of the 11½ mile Seoul City Wall.
Built in 1396, it has been strengthened and modified over the years. Today, 70% is either rebuilt or restored.

The wall went up and down hills, while the path alternated between being on and beside the wall. On a clear day, the views would be dramatic.

After a couple hours I reached a sign warning that I was approaching a military area.
At this point, the wall is just 35 miles from the border with North Korea. It provides commanding views of  downtown Seoul to the south, including the president's residence, and the countryside to the north towards North Korea.

In 1969 this part of the wall was infiltrated by North Korean commandos who mounted an unsuccessful assassination attempt on the South Korean president.

This area is seen as especially vulnerable to North Korean aggression. To enter this area I had to fill out a form, show my passport, and wear an ID.
Except when signs indicated otherwise, photography was allowed. Judging by the signs, I could see the authorities were particularly concerned about picture-taking towards downtown Seoul. 
Looking north from military area.
I tried to pay attention to the signs, but got distracted by the sight of a double fence following the line of the wall to the north, One of the fences appeared to be electrified.

I didn't see any warning signs, so I just had to take photos.

That was when I heard the whirring sound of the security camera. The soldier walked up to me and politely indicated photography was not allowed here. He patiently stood over me as I deleted the offending photos one by one. At no point did I feel threatened, but I certainly felt in the wrong.

We amicably parted ways. Although I could, later restore the deleted photos, I decided there would be no reason to do that.

At the far end of the military area I handed in the ID, and kept walking until heavy rain brought my hike to an end.
Beyond the military area.
Note: the photo at the top of this post shows a military guard post on the Seoul City Wall.


  1. Do you remember DBAWG? Meetings and good dinners!

    1. I do indeed. A group of people, arguing over ideas, generally arriving at shared conclusions. Often quite satisfying. Yes, and the bonhomie of those dinners. I treasure the memory. If you'd like to identify yourself, do contact me via "Contact Me" towards the the bottom on the right of the non-mobile page.