<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/usag-yongsan/3529828123/" title="Seoul American Middle School students visit the DMZ by usag.yongsan, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2338/3529828123_fcd3841b3e_m.jpg" width="240" height="154" align="right" hspace="10" alt="Two Seoul American Middle School students explore the Joint Security Area of the DMZ during an April 2008 research trip. (Photo by Rachael Geesa)" /></a><strong>PANMUNJOM, Republic of Korea</strong> - Seoul American Middle School students encountered Korean War history first hand when visiting the Joint Security Area and the Demilitarized Zone on a study trip April 30.

A total of 167 students in 7th grade and 10 faculty members toured the JSA, followed by a visit to the Third Tunnel and Dora Observatory.

"The idea originally came up in an Army Family Action Program meeting with the Garrison command," said Ann Knudsvig, a SAMS teacher who participated in the trip. "There was feedback which came through the Garrison that, at some point in a child's life here in Yongsan, they should go up to the DMZ on a study trip."

Prior to the study trip, students completed a preparatory assignment where they answered 15 questions about the DMZ and the Korean War based on their own research.

"It was fun to research, and I found a lot of cool stuff about it," said Chalion Belchie, a student in the 7th grade who has not been to the DMZ before. "It was nice to know the facts before the trip. I learned more."

The Joint Security Area, established in 1953, is used as a meeting place for diplomatic engagements by the two Koreas. It has been the site of more than 750 violent acts since its establishment. The Military Armistice Commission conference room stands on the border where the armistice to bring a cease-fire in the Korean War was signed.

The Third Tunnel, discovered in 1978, is one of three tunnels dug by North Korea to gain access to South Korean territory.

"I think a lot of kids had a misconception about the DMZ," Knudsvig said. "First of all, they thought all this time the Korean War was over."

The trip was designed to help the students understand U.S. Forces Korea's mission and the fact that Korea is still a warzone.

"Our intention was that kids would get an appreciation for what the Soldiers do, as well as all the people who work for the United Nations," she said. "Why are we here' Why do we sacrifice so much all the time, sometimes be separated from our families' What is the purpose of all that'"

Knudsvig said she hoped the students learned why their parents were here. "It's all in support of trying to keep the peace so that the fighting doesn't begin again," she said.

Michael Larsen, another student in 7th grade, said it was a special reminder to him that the war is not over yet.

"I think it's sad because we're right next to each other but still at war," he said. "The fact that there were guards standing there watching over us was a creepy reminder to me."

USO offers tours to the DMZ. For more information, call 724-7781, or visit the USO <a href="http://affiliates.uso.org/korea/">web site </a>.

<div align="center"><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/usag-yongsan/3529829209/" title="Seoul American Middle School students visit the DMZ by usag.yongsan, on Flickr"><img src="http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3607/3529829209_0d9373c84d.jpg" width="500" height="333" alt="Seoul American Middle School students visit the DMZ" /></a></div>

Page last updated Thu May 14th, 2009 at 21:14