South Korea browsing: Hitting the waves close to the DMZ


38th Parallel Seaside, South Korea (CNN) — If you wish to surf close to the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), you might need to go by means of barbed wire to succeed in the waves.

A lot of the japanese shoreline of South Korea, operating as much as the border with North Korea, is militarized and closely fortified, guarded by fences, safety cameras, guard towers and armed forces outposts.

However the space can also be house to among the finest waves in South Korea.

With browsing taking off on this nation lately, colonies of surf lovers have sprung up amid the army fortifications.

“We have had this type of surroundings for thus lengthy, we’re probably not intimidated by the army motion or troopers passing by,” says Lee Hyung-joo.


Gajin Seaside, a browsing hotspot, is 30 kilometers from the DMZ.

Sophie Jeong/CNN

Situated round 45 miles (70 kilometers) from the DMZ, Lee’s beachside bar and “Surfyy Seaside” surf camp is separated from the ocean by an eight-foot-high safety fence topped by razor wire. Each morning, he says troopers unlock a gate within the fence that provides clients entry to sea and sand.

“About 300 meters from right here, there’s an artillery base,” Lee says, pointing down the street.

After large storms, he usually finds North Korean cigarette packs and water bottles washed up on the seaside right here.

Wearing billowy tie-dye trousers, a Jack Daniels tank prime and sporting a beard and man-bun, Lee appears to be like the a part of a stereotypical seaside bum.

However he is additionally an bold tourism operator, who describes how he and his companions negotiated with the army in addition to county and village officers to safe permission to arrange their enterprise on a seaside he says was closed to civilians till 2015.


Vacationers pose in entrance of a “Surfyy Seaside” signal at Hajodae Seaside on South Korea’s east coast.

Sophie Jeong/CNN

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, visiting households take selfies in entrance of a giant “Surfyy Seaside” signal erected within the sand, simply meters from a army digital camera that scans the horizon.

Up and down the coast, there are various comparable examples of seaside communities co-existing with the safety forces.

On the 38th Parallel Seaside — the unique dividing line between North and South Korea, which existed till the outbreak of the Korean Warfare in 1950 — a squad of troopers carrying rifles patrols the shore at dawn, lengthy earlier than wetsuited surfers hurl themselves on boards and paddle into the ocean.

North Korean incursions


A lot of South Korea’s east coast, standard amongst surfers, is lined with fences topped with barbed wires.

Sophie Jeong/CNN

The safety measures defend the coast from the specter of doable North Korean incursions.

In previous a long time, there have been quite a few lethal incidents involving North Korean safety forces that approached the South Korean shoreline.

In September 1996, a North Korean submarine ran aground close to the town of Gangneung. The South Korean authorities says 11 of its troopers, two cops and 4 civilians had been subsequently killed pursuing 13 North Koreans who got here on shore from the submarine. The North Koreans had been all finally killed, in response to the South Korean Unification Ministry.

In June 2002, six South Korean naval officers had been killed when the 2 international locations’ navies fought a battle close to the western island of Yeonpyeong.

In 2010, North Korea shelled the identical island, killing two South Korean marines and two civilians.

Surfyy Seaside surf teacher Kim Seung-jun says he misplaced pals in that incident. On the time, he was serving as a marine.

“These days it is a good state of affairs, however we’ve got to repeatedly defend ourselves,” Kim says.

Peace and waves


A stone monument signifies the unique dividing line between North and South Korea, established in 1945 when Japan surrendered.

Sophie Jeong/CNN

Amongst these browsing right here on the coast, there seems to be broad help for the latest warming of relations between the 2 Koreas, in addition to final month’s summit between the North and South Korean leaders.

“Earlier than, I by no means felt the North might be a pal,” says Kwon Min-ju. Now, she says, “I really feel very near the North.”

Kwon, who works as a yoga teacher in Seoul, drives three hours to the coast most weekends to surf along with her boyfriend, Yeom Seong-hoon.

Wearing wetsuits, their faces caked with heavy solar safety cream, they are saying they hope a peace treaty between North and South would immediate the army to take away the safety fences alongside the seashores.

“We would like peace and waves,” says Yeom.


The proprietor of “Surfyy Seaside” surf camp Lee Hyung-joo negotiated with the army and county officers to open up a seaside that was closed to the general public till 2015.

Sophie Jeong/CNN

Some within the tourism business right here, like Surfyy Seaside operator Lee, hope a long-lasting peace between Seoul and Pyongyang would open up restricted stretches of shoreline.

“If someway peace will finish the conflict and perhaps there is a peace treaty signing… then I do not suppose they will have use for this barbed wire and likewise the army bases on the seaside,” Lee says. “Which suggests extra alternatives for vacationer companies.”

However Lee, who additionally surfs, has one other ulterior motive.

Like the entire different surfers we talked to right here, he desires of in the future browsing unexplored breaks north of the DMZ.

“We at all times discuss going to North Korea,” he says.


Canadian Jake McFadyen has surfed in lots of locations around the globe, however browsing South Korea’s east coast is “undoubtedly completely different” as a result of its heavy army presence.

Sophie Jeong/CNN

“Surf tourism up in North Korea can be nice,” says Jake McFadyen, a Canadian who could also be one of many first international surf instructors working in South Korea.

McFadyen first got here to South Korea to show English in 2007. He says at the moment, hardly anybody in South Korea knew about browsing.

“Again within the day, I used to get referred to as out of the water rather a lot by the ocean police,” he says.

Right now, with browsing booming on the South Korean coast, he says an increasing number of individuals scour satellite tv for pc photographs speculating about North Korean waves.

“I do not suppose I will be sneaking in by means of any fences to get into North Korea any time quickly to surf there,” McFadyen says.

“But when it is doable I would like to test it out.”

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