updated October 1, 2013 . . . The tour is back on again. Happy Day Tour Company has agreed to wait until late December for us to come up with a headcount of 20 members. We still want you to join us. end of update
In 2009, I arranged and led a small tour group to Korea. While there, we took part in the first ever international JSA veterans reunion held at Camp Bonifas and Panmunjom.
Our plans for a similar April 2013 Korea tour, International JSA reunion, and JSA tour have gone through a series of incarnations. Back to square one. Due to the high cost of a Jeju tour and lack of participation, that option no longer exists. The 11 day, 10 night mainland tour with an international JSA reunion and JSA tour is still in the works though. The tour is open to JSA veterans, their guests, and the general public.
As in 2009, I will make no profit whatsoever on the tour. My only purpose is to give you folks an opportunity to visit modern Korea and modern JSA.
Korea Happy Day Tour of Alexandria, Va. and Seoul Korea is the tour company I plan to use. It comes highly recommended from a friend who has toured with them. We MUST have at least 20 tour members for the trip
As before, everyone is responsible for his/her own round trip airfare to/from Inchon International Airport. We will be flying together from San Francisco as a group unless otherwise arranged with me in advance. Happy Day will provide us with the tour bus, accomodations, breakfasts, dinners, all entrance fees except one in the $7-$10 dollar range. You will pay for your own lunches, souvenirs,and other extras. Their price for this is $1,500 per person. PLUS (just in) $10/day for driver and guide tip = $110. Final total is $1,610.
Once I sign a contract on this which will likely be around year's end, Happy Day will immediately need at least 30% down from each member. That is non-refundable. The remainder is due NO LATER THAN one month before the tour takes place. Along with the minimum 30% down, Happy Day will need a copy of your passport. A simple scan should be sufficient. Make sure your passport will be valid next April.
I need to know DEFINITELY that at least 20 Americans will go on the trip before the end of December, and I stick my neck out and sign a contract. I need to hear from you NOW that you are committed to joining us for the April 2013 Korea/JSA trip.
The tour itinerary remains the same subject to minor tweaks. It is listed below.
This time period is ideal for a visit. The weather is usually dry. The dress is going from a light jacket to shirtsleeves. Cherry trees, azaleas, and forsythias should all be in bloom - really beautiful. Most Koreans take vacations in the fall. There should be relatively little time spent standing in lines.
Saturday - A Blue House Tour (presidential office complex), shopping in Insadong Street (an arty and cultural area), and Kyoungbok palace (Seoul's major palace of the Chosun dynasty). For dinner, we plan to drive up Namsan (South Mt.), take an elevator up into Seoul Tower (similar to the Space Needle in Seattle), and eat in one of the restaurants there. Seoul Tower will provide a wonderful night-time view of the city below. Another Seoul Tower site is here.
Sunday - We'll take our bus across Korea to Kangnung on the East Sea. There, we will visit, and go through, a North Korean submarine which ran aground in South Korea. We'll also visit a decomissioned Korean warship, and a decomissioned Korean military plane. Then we'll head north along the shore past many beautiful sandy beaches (behind barbed wire). We'll stop at the 38th parallel for a photo op before continuing on. I expect we'll stay overnight in Sokcho or Sampo - both beach resort towns.
Monday - Cherry blossoms should be beautiful and we'll stop for blossom photos. Then we'll go to Sorak Mt. National Park. Soraksan is Korea's 3rd highest mountain and its beautiful. The park also has Asia's tallest buddha statue (sixty-some feet high). We'll take a cable car up the mountain - great ride, great view. Back down the mountain, we'll take a short walk to the Shinheungsa buddhist monestary. They have a beautiful golden colored buddha in their temple there. The remainder of the day depends on some things, but presently I plan for us to go to Gosung on the border with NK. Although I didn't know it last trip, I found out last year that we now have 3 or 4 JSA people stationed there. It is where the road goes to the Diamond Mt. Resort in NK.
Tuesday - We travel to Yanggu (on the DMZ). There is a great view of the "Punchbowl" a famous Korea War battlefield. At the same location, we will go down into the 4th North Korean invasion tunnel they dug under the zone (now sealed off at the MDL in the tunnel). Then we'll go to Soyang Lake in Chunchon for a boat ride to Guseong Waterfall
Wednesday - We travel to Chorwon, midway on the DMZ. Chorwon was a corner of the old Iron Triangle of the war. There we'll go through the Iron Triangle Museum, go down into the second tunnel, and get up close and personal with some old former NK masonary buildings damaged by the Korean War. Then off to Munsan and the Injimgak, a pavillion next to Freedom Bridge, now used for trains only. Finally we return to Seoul or possibly accomodations elsewhere.
Thursday - We visit Namdaemun (Seoul's South Gate) which should have been rebuilt by then. We'll also shop in Namdaemun market. Something more may be added before dinner, but at that time, we'll board a boat on the Han River for an evening dinner cruise. It will be a moonlight cruise; bring your wife with you. Great food, fun trip. This link has a good video showing some of the cruise and the quality of the dinner. I regret to say that the video is not from a Korean or American point of view. The music and ambiance are out of character. The cruise is actually relaxed and cozy.
Friday - We'll be in Suwon at the Folk Village. It is like a big theme park without rides. It may seem very familiar to you if you served in Korea in the 1950s through 1960s. We'll also visit the nearby Hwasung Fortress.
Saturday We'll go to Yongsan and visit the National Museum of Korea. One of my group last time, likened it to the Smithsonian. That afternoon, I expect to hold the 2d international JSA reunion with the Korean Old Boys (their JSA veterans organization) in a military building at Yongsan.
Sunday - Camp Bonifas/Panmunjom - a full day tour
Monday - fly home.
photos from our 2009 Korea tour.