On 18 September 1996, a North Korean submarine stranded on the east coast of South Korea, just south of Gangneung. The North Korean crew fled and a manhunt by the South Korean army followed. What exactly was going on? And how bizarre is it to be able to visit this controversial North Korean submarine? Because that is possible! In the Tongil Park in Jeongdongjin.
Hostel: Aark Guesthouse, Gangneung! Very friendly owner, speaks English and prepares an excellent breakfast for you! Highly recommended!
A gruesome discovery: 11 dead people
In the morning of September 18, 1996, a passer-by noticed something strange in the water. He called the police and soon it turned out to be a task for the army. A North Korean submarine stranded off the coast of South Korea. But no sign of the crewmembers!
A manhunt was set up and soon they discovered something terrible. 11 of the North Korean crew had been shot dead. Later it would appear that they were held responsible for the stranding of the submarine. And the eleventh North Korean shot them all, and in the end himself.
A 49-day manhunt
How many crew members are we looking for? I don’t know, but in the following days another 11 members were taken out by the army. One person was arrested and confessed everything. Engine trouble was the cause! And there were 26 of us. And then we stranded at the coast. But if this story was true?
The South Korean army continued its search. And people living in the neighborhood were scared. What was the intention of the other members? Only after 49 days the last two North Koreans were eliminated. The relationship between North and South Korea had never been so bad…
Tongil Park or Unification Park
After two weeks, North Korea demanded that the submarine be returned. An apology and an explanation were not forthcoming. South Korea refused and after the investigation the South Koreans placed the submarine in Tongil Park in Jeongdongjin. So let’s pay a visit…
The unification park costs 3000 won. In addition to the North Korean submarine, there is also an American naval vessel from 1945. This ship was used during the end of the Second World War and the Vietnam War. Eventually it was donated to South Korea in 1972.
In the North Korean submarine
With a helmet on, you can go into that special submarine. And rightly so, because it soon becomes clear how low and small it is. About 30 meters long with small spaces. And there were 25 crew members in it. I give it to them!
Just after the submarine ran aground, the crew burned all the papers. And even that can be seen! Part of the compartment is black. A remarkable submarine! Made of plastic, so as not to be noticed by sonar systems. And that almost worked out!
History: Just after the conflict with the North Korean submarine, a South Korean consul died in Vladivostok. Murdered! Probably by North Korean agents…
The American naval vessel
The American navy ship is also allowed to be there. It just doesn’t have a dramatic story. It is mainly a glimpse into the compartments of the ship. How was life on the ship? What did it look like from the inside? A small museum can be found in the boat. Just follow the route! And take a look at the pictures below and you know enough…
Relationship between North and South Korea
The real meaning of this action remains to be guessed. Was it one of North Korea’s umpteenth attempts at infiltration? Or was there nothing behind this action and was it really engine trouble?
Or was it sabotage of North Korea? To distract the attention of its own people. Because the sanctions imposed by the United States caused the economy to fall into disrepair. And as two years of failed harvests led to severe famines. Whatever it was, in the years that followed, tensions between the two countries rose sharply.
History: In 1999, the navies of both countries came into battle. It was short-lived, but it is the first time since the Korean war that fighting broke out.
Planning a visit to the North Korean submarine and Tongil Park in Jeongdongjin, South Korea?
How to get there?
Tongil Park is located 20 kilometers southeast of the city of Gangneung. From the train station in Gangneung there is an hourly bus service to Jeongdongjin. Bus 111, 112 or 113 takes 25 minutes and a ticket costs 1300 won.
Besides the North Korean submarine and the American navy ship, there is a park with military planes and tanks. But if you’ve been to the war museum in Seoul this is not a must in my opinion. Unless there is time left.
Tongil Park is open from March to October from 9 am to 5.30 pm. From November to February from 9 am to 4.30 pm. Access to the park costs 3000 won.
Read more about South Korea?
- Andong: Top 6 sights, accommodation and transport
- Andong Mask Dance Festival: The Masks of Hahoe
- Hahoe Folk Village: Discover this village from the Joseon Dynasty
- Haesindang Park, Sinnam | A strange Penis Park in South-Korea
And what did you think of Tongil Park and the North Korean submarines? Feel free to leave a message below!
South korea – historical travel guide
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Hello, I’m Steven!
On Travel4history I write about my experiences during my travel in combination with history. What do we historically know about the places we visit? Here I share information about tips, experiences and history.
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