In August 2006, I traveled to South Korea on a business trip. I had been in Korea in 1998 on a similar trip. My company was partnering again with the same Korean company, and I was there to do early testing to help make the integration process go more smoothly. Four of us were together on this trip.

We stayed in Seoul in a hotel that was in close walking distance to where we would work. I certainly could not have afforded this hotel! It was in one of the most expensive parts of the city.

2006_korea_trip0 This was the view out of my window. There were many large and impressive buildings. The land of Seoul is hilly and where it was very steep, it was left green and covered with trees. This added a lot of interest and beauty to the city.

2006_korea_trip1 Every day, a new plate of fruit was left for us in our room.

I had a laptop computer with video conference capability on the trip. Every morning I talked to family in Washington state or Japan, sometimes showing the view out the window. This was so utterly cool and made it seem like I wasn't far away at all!

2006_korea_trip2 We ate breakfast in one of the hotel's restaurants. Since the clientele was so diverse, the variation of food that was available was almost endless. It was beautifully presented and delicious. The fresh kiwi juice was fantastic.

This was the cheese bar.

2006_korea_trip3 We had to walk to the other side of a city block to get to work. The entire block was an international convention and exhibition center. And the whole basement level was a upscale shopping mall. We usually walked through the mall to cross the block.

2006_korea_trip4 Sometimes the juxtapositions were strange. This was one of the restaurants in the mall.

This mall seemed to be very popular with young romantic couples.

2006_korea_trip5 The mall had a multiplex theater and an aquarium in it.

2006_korea_trip6 The other end of the mall was a subway station that had access to the both sides of the street. We crossed the street by walking through the station's underground halls.

2006_korea_trip7 We walked top-side on one day that was sunny and enjoyed the public art put around the exhibition center.

2006_korea_trip8 Some were unusual, but most were pretty cool.

2006_korea_trip9 Most of the buildings were quite impressive too.

2006_korea_trip10 Some were also unusually interesting. The work week went by quickly.

2006_korea_trip11 This trip gave us the weekend free, so the four of us took the DMZ tour on Saturday.

The De-Militarized Zone was created at the armistice at the end of the Korean war. A line was drawn across the Korean peninsula (orange lights) and a 2 km buffer was created on either side of the line as a no-man's land. The South Koreans additionally created another buffer south of that called the Militarized zone. At this spot on the peninsula, it goes to the river.

Notice (for later) the parking-lot area south of the river and a (railroad) bridge. Then the (driving) bridge across the river. Notice the single light toward the middle right of the picture.

2006_korea_trip12 On the drive up, I noticed guard posts along the river and double-layer razor-wire fenced river banks. Apparently North Korean spies like to swim down the river.

After a while we could look across the river into North Korea. Whereas the South's hills were covered in trees, the North's hills were stripped bare and brown.

2006_korea_trip13 This is the parking lot area that was noted before. It is a staging place for visitors. The driving bridge is visible in the background.

In strange juxtaposition, the place also had an amusement park, Korean war memorials, and a particular fence symbolizing the barrier between North and South that was a kind of "wailing wall" .

2006_korea_trip14 The railroad bridge at this location was called the Freedom Bridge because many from the North escaped to freedom by crossing its bombed remnants on foot. It was rebuilt, but is blocked from use today by a fence. The walking bridge up to it allows ordinary people to go as close as they are allowed to the North. They write messages for their relatives on the other side, and tie them to the fence.

Many Koreans still have family on the other side of the border. All desperately want their country to be re-unified. The driving bridge was built by Samsung's late chairman out of his personal funds, to spur joint economic development in an effort toward re-unification.

The North wants re-unification as well, but seeks to do it by force...

2006_korea_trip15 The staging area is also a war memorial. This inscription says:

"This memorial has been erected by the Republic of Korea in gratitude to the United States of America for the sacrifices and achievements of her sons and in humble tribute to their memory. 1950 - 1953"

2006_korea_trip16 Each state has a flag pole and state seal inset at its base.

There are several other memorials there as well.

2006_korea_trip17 Adjacent is a section displaying a few vehicles from that war era.

2006_korea_trip18 A US M47 tank.

2006_korea_trip19 The North's desire to unify by force is seen in tunnels that have been found. This is an illustration of the 3rd infiltration tunnel. This one is large enough for an invasion force to pass through in an hour. It was indicated on the previous map by the single light.

It was made by blasting through solid granite, 250 feet below ground. A defector from the North helped the South to discover it.

We were not allowed to take our cameras inside the tunnel. It was rough rock finish and was not made for tall people. I had to stoop the whole time I was in it. We went as far as the first of three barriers put in the tunnel.

2006_korea_trip20 Then we went to Dorasan Mountain, which the military uses as an observation site.

Each side is allowed to have a single village inside the DMZ. This is overlooking the South's village. A large flag pole was erected.

2006_korea_trip21 Not to be outdone, the North put up their own that was higher in their "propaganda" village. After a game of one-up-manship, the North's topped out at 524 ft (160m - almost as tall as Seattle's Space Needle), and is the tallest flagpole in the world.

It was so outsized on the land, that it looked like a stick-pin flag on a wall map even though it was several kilometers away.

2006_korea_trip22 The North's 3rd largest city was also visible. There had just been a typhoon at the peninsula's southern end that had cleared the air, so we had very good viewing weather.

One of my friends was even able to see the 3-story high statue of the North's "beloved leader" when it was pointed out to him.

2006_korea_trip23 Last we stopped at a large new train station that has been constructed in preparation for open travel into the North.

2006_korea_trip24 The hope of the Korean people is strong.

2006_korea_trip25 This was the one location we were able to freely take pictures of a Korean military man. His job was to pose for everybody, and he had a wonderful smile.

2006_korea_trip26 On Sunday, I went with one of the guys to an English language church that was part of a Korean mega-church. This was their choir and orchestra. The music was good.

2006_korea_trip27 After we got out of the service, we realized just how big this organization was. This whole building is theirs. And the one next to it. And the one across the street!

2006_korea_trip28 On our way back, we rode the subway. It was very interesting to look down the center of the cars and see them snaking back and forth as the train was weaving through the underground tunnels.

I flew home the next day. It was a very interesting trip.