PAJU, Jan. 25 (Korea Bizwire) – Since its opening a little more than three years ago, the Camp Greaves DMZ Experience Center has slowly but surely become a pit stop for tourists visiting the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea.
The Gyeonggi Tourism Organization and Paju City revealed that 23,116 tourists visited Camp Greaves last year. The number of visitors has steadily increased since 2014, from 5,771 in the first full year of operations to 11,993 and 17,128 in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
Located within the civilian control area and a mere 2 kilometers from the border, Camp Greaves is a former U.S. military base established in 1953 that was “returned” to South Korea in 2007.
In December, 2013, after Gyeonggi Province struck a deal with the Ministry of National Defense to convert part of the camp grounds into a tourist area, the Camp Greaves DMZ Experience Center officially opened.
One building that was formerly used as the U.S. military officers’ residential quarters was renovated and from then on housed tourist-friendly events such as making military dog tags, trying out uniforms, and experiencing life as a man or woman in the armed forces.
The building is also being used as a visitation center for families with troops deployed in the area.
Another fact that Camp Greaves is famous for is serving as the set for the 2016 blockbuster TV show “Descendants of the Sun” starring recent newlyweds Song Hye-kyo and Song Joong-ki.
Most of the scenes depicting the fictional country of “Urk” where military captain Song Joong-ki and doctor Song Hye-kyo carry out their romance is actually Camp Greaves.
With the show having recorded extraordinary levels of popularity in neighboring China as well a host of other Asian countries, the Gyeonggi Tourism Organization has erected signposts pointing out where certain scenes were filmed.
Also in 2016, the limit on 250 visitors per day was raised to 3,000, and entrance passes were allowed to be purchased at the entrance rather than needing to be bought two to three days beforehand.
With a “10 million tourists” goal, Paju City will play a large role in connecting Imjingak Park and Camp Greaves with gondola lifts that will cross over the Imjin River.
A spokesperson for the Gyeonggi Tourism Organization said work will continue to be carried out to connect the tourist hotspots in the area into an interlinked network.