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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

The Bloody Punchbowl

The bloody punchbowl historical battlesite near the DMZ hosts more than bloody history. by Jon Stafford

(reprinted from the Ulsan Pear, November 2004 – Ed.)

A very out of the way destination worth checking out, even if you are not a big history buff, is the infamous Korean War battle site ‘the Punchbowl’. The Punchbowl is located adjacent to the Demilitarized Zone in Gangwon-do Province just to the north of the city of Yanggu. This area features a number of places worth checking out.

The mountains in the Yanggu area are steep and precipitous with many peaks reaching over 1,000 meters. They are not stunning rock monoliths like Pukhansan or Seoraksan, but more like mountains you would see in the American Appalachians. In addition to the mountains the area boasts the beautiful Soyang Lake where you can hop on a ferry and tour the area by boat. Make sure you bring your fishing pole because the fishing here is great. However, the best part about exploring this area is the fact that very few people venture up here to begin with. No traffic jams, no cars parked all over the side of the road, and no trails jam packed with long lines of hikers, which are all common in most outdoor areas of Korea. You can pretty much pick a spot and enjoy it to yourself for the whole day.

The main attraction of the area is, of course, the Punchbowl itself. The Punchbowl is the site of the infamous Bloody and Heartbreak Ridge battles. On these slopes during the Korean War 183 ROK Marines and 245 American Marines lost their lives to take these mountains from the defendingNorth Korean soldiers. The combined ROK and American Marines inflicted 2,799 KIAs on the enemy and captured 557 POWs during the fighting. Securing these two mountains allowed the UN forces to consolidate their hold on the Punchbowl basin and to gain strategic ground over looking the present North Korean territory to defend against any future North Korean offensives.

Once inside the Punchbowl you can really understand how this place earned its name. The valley is exactly the shape of a round bowl. This shape is due to the valley actually being the caldera of a long extinct and badly eroded volcano. It is like a really old Paekdusan, the famous North Korean volcano.

Inside the valley there are many farms and the village of Haean. Haean is a very small village with little accommodation and a heavy military presence. The village does have a small museum and you can book a tour to see the 4th Infiltration Tunnel and the Ulji Observation Post.

The fourth tunnel was discovered in March 1990. This tunnel is buried at a depth of 145 meters below ground and measures two meters high and two meters wide. If you are tall you will need to make sure you wear your hard hat while walking through the tunnel because you will hit you head. The tunnel was created to secretly infiltrate North Korean soldiers into South Korea if hostilities were to break out again. There are actually a number of these tunnels that have been discovered along the DMZ. From the Ulji Observation Post you can get a good look into North Korea and you can even see the western end of the Kumgang Mountains on a clear day.

Looking at the Punchbowl today it is hard to imagine that such a tranquil valley as this was once the scene of some of the most ferocious fighting of the Korean War. Besides the DMZ the only reminder that a battle occurred in this beautiful valley is the billboard in the city proclaiming this basin as the site of the final battle featured in the hit Korean movie, Taegugki.

To reach the Punchbowl, travel north from Chuncheon on Highway 46. The highway travels up and twists around the sides of some high mountains before traveling adjacent to Soyang Lake. This highway

will take you to Yanggu. From there take Highway 31 going north. The highway travels along a

pretty valley dotted sporadically with farms and military bases. Eventually you will reach an exit to the Punchbowl. The signs are clearly marked. The road to the Punchbowl travels up an extremely steep road that reaches over 1000 meters in elevation. From the top of the road you get a great view of the area and the inside of the Punchbowl itself. Follow the road to Haean and the museum.

For more information or photos, check out Wikipedia