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Unification Observatory

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Goseong Unification Observatory (통일전망대; map) stands at the top of Goseong County, just a few kilometers from Korea’s demilitarized zone, the border between South and North Korea. 

The northernmost point civilians can reach on South Korea’s east coast, the complex provides high-angle views into North Korea and features several museums where visitors can learn about the conflicts that birthed the DMZ.

Let’s learn!

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The Highlights

The Goseong Unification Observatory sits in a civilian restricted area close to the DMZ. Entry into the restricted area requires visitors to pass through a simple security check at the Unification Security Park, near the Unification Observatory Certification Center (map).

Then, visitors may enter the civilian restricted area via car, taxi, or bus at a security checkpoint. (Walking and cycling into the restricted area is not allowed.)

More details on the entry procedures are given below.

Once visitors gain entrance to the restricted area, they may visit three different attractions with the price of one ticket:

Unification Observatory Tower

Opened in 2018 and a winner of the Star of Korean Tourism award, the Unification Observatory Tower perches 70 meters above the East Sea (a 37-meter tall tower on a 33-meter hill). Shaped like a giant “D,” it lies at the end of Route 7, ten kilometers from the entrance to the restricted zone and 4 kilometers from the DMZ.

Unification Observatory Tower offers a panoramic glimpse up into North Korea. On a clear day, visitors can peer out from the tower’s fourth-floor observatory and find rivers, coastal rock formations, and Mount Kumgang (금강산; map; Geumgangsan), which sits 25 kilometers north over the DMZ. In peaceful times, North Korea allowed South Koreans to cross into their country and hike Mount Kumgang, whose beauty ancient scholars wrote about.

The observatory’s other offerings include:

  • A first-floor cafe and market where visitors can buy North Korean goods and commemorative stamps.
  • A promotion hall, education room, and lounge on the second floor.
  • The original unification observatory, built in 1984, sits next to the new observation tower.
  • And the 6.25 War Experience Exhibition Hall. More below.

6.25 War Experience Exhibition Hall

6.25 War Experience Exhibition Hall (6.25전쟁체험 전시관; map) shares a parking lot with the Unification Observatory at the top of the restricted area in Goseong.

The name “6.25” derives from the date the Korean War began, June 25th, 1950.

The museum was built in 1984 along with the first observatory. Designers recreated the horrors of Korea’s civil war through photos, videos, and documents, and to hope for a peaceful reunification of North and South Korea.

Inside the museum, find photo and video experience rooms, accounts of all the major battles along Korea’s east coast, and a history of South Korea’s military. 

The most striking exhibit is the “excavation room.” It lists all the casualties during the 6.25 War, and displays relics left behind by those who perished.

Peace Security Park

Peace Security Park sits in a small courtyard near the Observatory Tower and 6.25 War Hall. It contains two large statues:

  • The Unification Maitreya Buddha statue and
  • a Virgin Mary statue.

The Unification Maitreya Buddha measures 13.6 meters tall and faces north, palms open, in the Abhaya Mudra pose. The Buddhist gesture’s right hand brings reassurance and mitigates fear, and the left hand shows compassion, bestows blessings, and gives charity, all poetic gestures to peace between the two nations.

DMZ Museum

Opened in August, 2009, the DMZ Museum (DMZ박물관; map) lies along Route 7 in the middle of the civilian restricted zone, halfway to the Unification Observatory.

Newer than the 6.25 War Experience Exhibition Hall, the DMZ Museum offers in-depth exhibits about the history of Korea’s demilitarized zone (DMZ). It shows the two countries before and after the Korean War, and offers visions of what a unified Korea may look like.

The DMZ Museum features both indoor and outdoor exhibits, with over 7,000 artifacts.

The museum’s indoor exhibition space includes two floors.

  • The rooms on the first floor, titled “The Unblessed Birth of the DMZ,” “The Legacy of the Cold War Continues,” and “But the DMZ Lives On,” showcase the DMZ’s past. It displays artifacts, like bullet-pierced helmets, letters from soldiers to their mothers, and a recreated minefield.
  • The museum’s second floor holds rooms titled, “Dreaming of the DMZ” and “The Peace Tree Grows in the DMZ.” They showcase visions of a peaceful future. Besides profiling inter-Korean peace summits, the second floor holds a giant tree sculpture decorated with notes wishing for reunification.

The DMZ Museum also includes a sprawling outdoor exhibition space with larger relics of the Korean War and DMZ, including:

  • A giant loudspeaker, retired in 2004, which South Korea used to blast propaganda over the DMZ into North Korea.
  • Sections of old barbed wire fencing pulled from the DMZ.
  • A boat used by North Korean defectors.
  • Various artworks, like a barbed wire sculpture created by Jin Ye, depicting how instruments of war can become beauty.
  • A DMZ guard post saved and preserved from demolition in 2018.
  • And an eco pond and wildflower garden.

Entry Procedures

Want to enter the restricted civilian zone and visit the observatory and museums? Though simple, the process involves a few more steps than just buying a ticket and entering. 

First, visit the Unification Security Park (통일안보공원; map), which sits at the northernmost spot along the east coast open to the public. Then follow these steps:

  1. Bring an ID and fill out an entry report form.
  2. Once approved for entry, buy your tickets and attend a seven-minute presentation at the Security Park’s Education Center.
  3. Line up in your vehicle outside the entrance to the civilian restricted area 10 minutes before your assigned entry time.
  4. Receive a permit at the entry gate and drive into the restricted area.

What about entering with a bicycle, on foot, or by motorcycle? Sorry, only cars, buses, and taxis may enter the civilian restricted area.

(Security is so tight, cars with “black boxes” or dashboard cameras must turn them off prior to entry.)

Entry Times and Fees

In order to maintain a count on all the Unification Observatory’s visitors, entry times are staggered in 30-minute increments. 

  • Entry Times: 
    • Summer: 9 AM ~ 5:30 PM
    • Winter: 9 AM ~ 3:50 PM
    • Open year-round
  • Admission Fee
    • Adults: ₩3,000
    • Seniors (65 and over): ₩1,500
    • Students: ₩1,500
  • Parking
    • ₩5,000 (₩6,000 for vehicles with over 10 seats)