Odusan Unification Observatory Tower is a museum and gallery in South Korea with views overlooking North Korea. The attraction located in Tanhyeon-myeon, Paju-si, South Korea. The tower was built to commemorate the unification of North and South Korea and to offer visitors a glimpse into the history and culture of the Korean people.
Origin and Historical significance
Odusan Unification Observatory Tower was opened in 1992 following the historic meeting between the two Korean leaders, Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il, in Pyongyang. The meeting resulted in the Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. It was aimed to promote peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.
Also, the tower is an important symbol of this historic meeting and serves as a reminder of the need for peaceful dialogue and cooperation between the two Koreas. It sits up on a small hill overlooking the river bank. It stands tall at 64 meters and offers a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape, including views of North Korea.
Tower Highlights and museum
Additionally, the tower offers visitors an opportunity to learn about the history and culture of the Korean people through various exhibitions and galleries. The first floor of the tower features a museum. It showcases various artifacts and documents related to Korean history. This includes the Korean War and the separation of North and South Korea.
The tower’s interior also features several other galleries that focus on different aspects of Korean history and culture. This includes a gallery dedicated to the history of the Korean War and a gallery showcasing traditional Korean handicrafts.
Also, you can also learn about the unification process and the efforts being made to promote peace and reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula. This ranges of well-wishes to once in a blue moon cross-reunions of families across the border.
360 degree panorama front compound with Bronze statue of Mansik-Jo.
The building front compound is laid in red bricks sitting 64 meters above sea level. You can get some goo all-round views of the hill up here, with both North and South Korea in view.
A minor feature here at the entrance compound at the Tower building carpark is a small wooden hut housing a large wooden drum. It looks like a Korean wall drum or sorts situated in the highland up here on the hill.
Art and Museum Galleries
Furthermore, the observatory has a small internal museum and art galleries spanning two floors offering visitors a glimpse into the rich history and culture of the Korean people. Entry to the observatory building cost 6,000 Won per person. Past the main lobby and ticketing counter, the exhibition starts with a walk through an art gallery wishing for unification.
Moreover, the art gallery showcases works by various Korean artists, including traditional paintings, sculptures, and calligraphy.
Also, the museum galleries feature various artifacts and documents related to Korean history, including the pains of Korean War and the separation of North and South Korea. There is even a Piano with strings made of fence barred wire.
Also, visitors can learn about the different aspects of Korean culture, including traditional Korean handicrafts, cuisine, and clothing. There is also a small DMZ photo exhibition of scenes of the DMZ from the past to today.
A Gallery of unification
Moving up, the galleries leads on to a hallway area covering stories of re-unification and past efforts of North and South correspondences and diplomacy. This is touched via media coverage and photos galleries of past reunions between the North and South.
Notably, there is coverage on diplomatic meetings between the leaders of both Koreas tracked over the years. The most recent being the meeting of Moon Jae-in and North Korean Kim Jong-un.
Also, you can find walls full of scriptures and paintings containing wishes and pieces longing for unification between the North and the South. There is also a section on wishes for unification by rail via Dorasan station. You can view more of Dorasan at the DMZ unification village.
The tower also offers guided tours but mostly in Korean at fixed times of the day. You are also good in doing a self-guided tour too.
Also, when you are done with the galleries, there is an auditorium and a cafe located on the top floors of the observatory both with panoramic indoor views of North Korea. You can also wrap up your time at the rooftop observation deck.
Views of North Korea from Rooftop Observation Deck
Now to cover on the “Observatory” portion of the Odusan Unification Observatory Tower. It is an open-air rooftop clearing with an assortment of telescopes you can use to peak into the lives of the North.
180 degree panorama with North and South Korea in view.
Also, the rooftop Observation deck is one of the main highlights of the tower and is a popular photo spot.
Moreover, you can use telescopes up here to get a closer look at the nearby North Korean villages and landmarks, including the Propaganda Village and the DMZ. There is a combination of traditional telescopes and digital screen-based telescopes. There is no fee to use these telescopes.
Also, the telescopes offers a stunning unobstructed and panoramic views of the surrounding Imjin River and the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Starting off in front of you is a view of the Han river estuary from Odusan. On a low tide, you can see parts of a marshland and riverbed typically submerged underwater.
180 degree roof top panorama from Odusan observatory.
North Korean Propaganda village
Moreover, there is a guard post right in front of you managed by the South. Also, the Imjin River or Rimjin River separates the two Koreas at this closet point. It crosses the Demilitarized Zone and joining the Han River downstream of Seoul. The river runs from north to south and is the 7th largest river in Korea.
Interestingly, the distance between the Unification Tower to North Korea is only under 2km away. Also, it relates to the stories told in the galleries below of the Han river estuary and Jogang. I saw a group of North Korean personnel, presumably soldiers pacing about a beach side area near the North Korean Propaganda village.
Wrapping up the view on the far end at North Korea, you can catch views of the edge of the North Korea Kaeson Industrial complex. It was an attempt for both south and the north to work together in manufacturing.
Shuttle bus to Odusan Unification Tower
Getting to the tower is not well documented and neither is Google maps great at recommending directions. There are two methods of getting up Odusan Tower. First by an official shuttle bus operated by the attraction, and second on-foot via a trail walk.
In addition, most public buses passing into Tongji region will drop you off at a small village beside the National Folk museum of Korea. From here, the Odusan shuttle pick up point is about a kilometer walk southbound past the Tongil Dongsan Tofu Village towards a carpark space called Tongil Dongsan Observatory.
This is a open space and giant parking lot with a drive-in movie theater and a transport rest stop too. Notably it is served by local town bus services no. 33 and 900, and sits beside the Paju National Football Center.
Here in the open car park lot, the official shuttle has three daily uphill departures (10:30am, 1:30pm and 3pm) on weekdays and more regular ones on weekends.
Climbing up Odusan Unification Tower hill
While most patrons here drive up to the tower, though it is not uncommon to see locals trekking up Odusan hill too. Moreover, the free shuttle service here is at best not very frequent. It pays to arrive in time for your scheduled shuttle timing. Otherwise, you are good also ascending the Odusan hill yourself.
Walking up and down the trail takes about 20 minutes. It sees you about a 1.5km trek over a modern highway bridge. Also, from there, you can see North Korea visible in the horizon, it paints the stark development differences between the south and the hermit state.
Importantly, do note that the walking trail gate is located beside the Tongil open carpark end closes after 4pm. It is closed to vehicular traffic and you can use the side gates to enter and exit on-foot. You are free to pass through the public trial during daylight, though there are no lights and lamp posts along the path.
Having said that, the Observatory opens at 10am and closes from 5pm. It gives you enough time to make your way back down before it gets dark from 6pm, and to catch a connecting bus back to town. You pass through some sights of interest on your way up, like crossing a bridge over a massive motorway with North Korea visible in the horizon across the river.
Still, compared to the Imjingak-Paju DMZ village, which is a military restricted zone, the Odusan Observatory is one of the more accessible DMZ-related attractions which can visit at your own time within attraction opening hours without much external influence.
All in all, you are good at Odusan for about 2 hours tops. You are good for a half day trip here from Seoul City. The tower offers visitors an opportunity to learn about the separation history and culture of the Korean people. The rooftop observation deck provides stunning views of the surrounding landscape, including views of North Korea. The art and museum galleries also offer a glimpse into the different aspects of Korean culture. It makes Odusan Unification Observatory Tower is an important symbol of the historic meeting between the two Korean leaders and serves as a reminder of the need for peaceful dialogue and cooperation between the two Koreas.