Thursday, July 21, 2016

Demilitarized Zone and the largest church in the world

The trip to the Demilitarized Zone was this morning. The Demilitarized Zone is a strip of land which was created to widen the border and create a safe zone on both sides so that it is not easy for anyone to cross over. When you go there you can see into North Korea and if you take a tour that includes the Joint Security Area (JSA) you can actually step into North Korea. If you want to see how that works watch this crazy YouTube showing Conan O'brien and Steven Yuen, from the Walking Dead checking it out. 

We learned the hard way that you need to sign up about a week early if you want to go on one of the DMZ trips that also goes to the JSA. These tours are usually a full day and provide lunch. Because of the security situation only a few people are allowed to go to the JSA each day. It is not so limited for the half day DMZ trips.
We did not sign up early enough, so we were only able to go on the half day tour. On our trip we stopped at several places where you could see North Korea from a distance and also went down a tunnel that the South Koreans found and explain is an effort for North Koreans to attack South Korea. Seoul, the major city is actually only an hour or so from the Demilitarized Zone, so they are concerned. 

In later talks with friends we learned that it could benefit the South Korean Conservative government to keep the tensions high. As long as people are afraid they will support strong conservative leaders that want to keep democracy and are very anti-communist. 

There are real tensions there though and so many families that have been split by the border. It is interesting to me though that as time passes fewer and fewer people feel that connection to others in North Korea. A few people I talked to said things like "my husband's uncle lives there" in a way that sounded distant. 

Offering Envelopes organized by each member's number!
The evening was a contrast because we went to the world's largest church!  This church claims to have up to 800,000 members (including all satellite churches) with 250,000 attending on a Sunday. It is a Full Gospel Church and is Pentecostal. Other protestant churches are really growing and actually sending missionaries all over the world. This church has multiple services on Sunday with the 11am service being the most well-attended. They also have prayer services every morning of the week. The service was very familiar to me. Since it was an evening service there was not full attendance. There was a young worship band leading songs before the service started, but once it began the official choir took over. The order of service was familiar with the sermon being the most important part. Our friend translated for us and except for talk about North and South Korea, peace and unification the sermon was very similar to ones I have heard here. 

After eating we went on a river cruise on the River Han. We went right under a bridge that has a water light show. It was beautiful. 

Finally we went to taste some special Korean liquor. It is called 100 Year Liquor (written in Chinese letters on the front of the bottle). We learned that Korean’s drink with food. We went to a restaurant and they did not have the 100 Year Liquor, but they said that they would go out and buy some for us!  So, we sat down and took a look at the menu. It was difficult to find something we wanted to eat. There were chicken feet, pig's feet, and several very hot dishes. Our Korean friend talked them into making the Pork Belly dish without hot sauce (they put it on the side). So, we had a second dinner. The 100 year liquor was good and we also tried another type which I cannot name.

The day finally ended and we were exhausted and had just one more day in Korea.

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