Area’s ecosystem and residents under threat by development plans
Cutting across the midsection of the Korean Peninsula, the DMZ is a tragic setting created by war and division – but in natural terms, it is a land of blessings.
While South and North Korea have remained at odds across heavy barbed-wire fences for the 66 years since their division, the national environment, untouched by human hands, has transformed the world’s most forbidding region of heavy militarization into a space of peace and life.
The DMZ’s ecological axis, which stretches for 248km from Paju, Gyeonggi Province, to Goseong, Gangwon Province, is divided into a western section (Paju and Yeoncheon) with broad hills, rivers, farmland, and wetlands; a mountainous east (Hwacheon, Yanggu, Inje, and Goseong); and a central portion (Cheorwon) that serves as an ecological corridor.
'DMZ Peace Road'-September 30.
Possible ways to protect DMZ ecosystem
While the Demilitarized Zone has served as a buffer between South and North Korea following the Korean War in 1953, environmentalists say that this is one of the few places on earth untouched by recent human development, and that it can be gifted to future generations.
While the Demilitarized Zone has served as a buffer between South and North Korea following the Korean War in 1953, environmentalists say that this is one of the few places on earth untouched by recent human development, and that it can be gifted to future generations. Some experts claim that the international community, through bodies such as UNESCO, should co-govern the DMZ alongside the two Koreas. "It seems quite logical to work with the mechanism with UNESCO in Paris to set up a working group people from both sides, North and South Korea and international support group to consider the possibilities of advancing the demilitarized zone to a peace and life zone." He added that the DMZ can become a global symbol of peace and ‘Earth Trusteeship’, the idea that nature exists for itself and cannot be owned by single person or country. Efforts have been taken in the South to better promote the symbol of peace and ecosystem of the DMZ internationally, creating the so called ‘Peace trail’ and listing the southern half of the DMZ as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. However, experts say these efforts must be done in cooperation with the North. At a four-day DMZ fair held earlier last week in the city of Goyang in Gyeonggi-do Province, experts and citizens gathered to share the DMZ’s ecological values. "“It is important to reach a consensus with the North on proceeding with the registration of the DMZ as a piece of world heritage. While waiting for the North’s answer, we must work with the international community to set grounds for practical preparations in listing the area as a cultural and natural world heritage site.” But, the North has shown little to no sign of coming onboard,rejecting Seoul’s proposal of establishing ecological parks in the past. As inter-Korean cooperation is necessary for the next chapterof the DMZ's life, its fate will depend on how denuclearization talks and sanctions relief unfold. Choi Jeong-yoon, Arirang News.
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Artificial moon of peace rises over the DMZ
The Village of Hwacheon, Gangwon Province, near the inter-Korean border and the DMZ, saw a “moon of peace” made from rubber balloon over the DMZ with no clouds to block it. The moon will serve as a background for the village’s light show that will run from Sept. 12 to 29. The light show will use images of the moon, the earth, the Korean War, and the DMZ to emphasize a message of peace and reconciliation.
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Paju section of DMZ Peace Trail to open on August 10
Paju section of DMZ Peace Trail to open on August 10 - Application acceptance begins July 26 -
The ROK Government announced that the Paju section of the DMZ Peace Trail will be open to the public starting August 10.
The Paju section will be the third such opening following the Goseong section on April 27 and the Cheorwon section on June 1. It will be the first time opening an area where a Guard Post (GP) was removed from the DMZ in accordance with the ｢2018 Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjeom Declaration in the Military Domain｣.
The South and the North, in efforts to transform the DMZ into a peace zone, agreed to withdraw 11 GPs from the DMZ on a trial basis. The two Koreas accordingly removed 10 GPs and preserved one GP. The GP in Paju was one of those removed. The ROKG hopes the general public can feel for themselves the progressing peace process on the Korean Peninsula through the opening of the DMZ Peace Trail in Paju.
South Korean nationals who wish to walk the new peace trail can apply from July 26 through the Korea Tourism Organization (www.durunubi.kr) or the Ministry of the Interior and Safety (www.dmz.go.kr) on a preferred date. The final participants will be selected by a raffle, and the results will be posted on the website and delivered to those selected via mobile text messages.
The program will run twice a day and five days a week (closed Mondays and Thursdays), and each round will consist of a group of 20 persons.Facilities and memorials that show traces of the Korean War can easily be found in the Paju DMZ Peace Trail. A steam locomotive (train), which has been left derelict for more than half a century after being bombarded during the war, is displayed at Imjingak. Visitors can also see a bombed old township office of Jangdan past the gate to the DMZ Peace Trail and near the site of the removed GP.Before the opening of the Paju section, the Government will conduct an ecological survey of the area with experts in topology, vegetation, flora, and fauna from July 26 to 27. After the opening, unmanned equipment will be installed to observe changes in the ecosystem. Furthermore, the Government will conduct surveys of the east-west section of the DMZ Peace Trail (Ganghwa, Incheon - Goseong, Gangwon; 456km) by the end of the year and establish regional bases by 2022, with the objective of promoting the DMZ Peace Trail as a global attraction.
DMZ Peace Road' & Camino de Santiago
Next UNESCO World Heritage Item: 'DMZ Peace Road'
'DMZ Peace Road' is located in the center of the Korean Peninsula, which connects East-West of the Korean peninsula. 'DMZ Peace Road', which is symbolized as the world's only divided area, will be constructed as 501 km in total distance by 2022 according to the ‘Comprehensive Plan for the Development of Bordering Regions” (2011.7.27).
Starting with Goseong section in April, this year, Cherwon section in June, and then Paju section in August were opened.
The government is making preparations for ecological, historical sightseeing, and division experience in the border area by connecting the disconnected sections using the rural roads and utilizing the tourism resources of the border region.
Like numerous traces left through thousand years of pilgrimage to Santiago, there are traces of history, culture and security in the 'DMZ Peace Road' from prehistory to 74 years after the Korean War.
It is the pilgrimage route to remember and reflect on the suffering and to make plans for tomorrow. Considering the historical value, meaning, and the symbol that conveys peace to mankind, 'DMZ Peace Road' will become a pilgrimage route of healing as beautiful as the path to Santiago.
Gimpo, which is the closest to North Korea, can see the iron fence of the division, and there is Janghwang Wetland where river and sea meet each other. A city close to the Wetland is Goyang, which is a good place for cycling in the city center.
Paju, which provides experiences in the areas of security, history, and culture, is where visitors can see the Kaesong Industrial Complex directly, and Yeoncheon, which is the longest course of the 10 cities, allows people to enjoy the Hantan River and the main street.
Cherwon, the city famous for its habitat of migratory birds including cranes and
Hwacheon, which runs on the calm North Korean River are where visitors can enjoy the summer festival(marsh snails festival) and winter festival(mountain trout festival).
'DMZ Peace Road' will include Yanggoo with various types of sporting events through out all four seasons, Inje with superb scenery of Naeseorak, and Goseong with path with the view of Mt. Kumgang on clear days along the coastline of the East Sea. In addition, there are events such as a walking trip to pray for unification, a peaceful reunion marathon allowing the runners to experience the pain of division, a bicycle parade that rides the DMZ area by bicycle, a photo contest, and the DMZ International Documentary Film Festival.
Camino de Santiago
This pilgrimage route leads to Santiago de Compostella, a city northwest of Galicia, Spain, where the tomb of Jacob (one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, Jacob is Santiago in Spanish) is found.
The outstanding universal value of Camino de Santiago is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993 (expanded in 2015). The Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route played a crucial role in the cultural development exchange between the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe, not only in the Middle Ages but also afterwards. It was a very important pilgrimage route in the Middle Ages, with Jerusalem, where many pilgrims came from all over Europe, holding Saint Jacob as the patron saint of Spain in the 9th century Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
Camino de Santiago has a political background in which it defended the last fort of the Iberian Peninsula from the threat of the Muslim army at the time .
Camino de Santiago and the DMZ, in a way, shares similar symbolism. DMZ also has maintained the peace on the Korean peninsula, at the forefront of liberal peace and anti-communism in the tension of war clashes for 74 years.
On the way to the pilgrimage, there are traces showing how thousands of people has hanged clam shells and strolled with their canes throughout the millennia.
There are several pilgrimage routes going thorugh northern Spain found in Russia, Finland, Italy, Portugal, etc. It is best known as the French Route, the 800 km journey starting from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in the south of France through the Pyrenees and then to Santiago de Compostela.
It is a beautiful road full of green wheat fields and wildflowers that walkers have to walk 20 kilometers each day for a whole month
Next UNESCO World Heritage Item: DMZ BIOSPHERE
After Koreas’ 1st jointly inscribed
UNESCO world heritage item, Ssireum
According to UNESCO, on 26 November 2018, ssireum wrestling from North Korea and South Korea was jointly inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. UNESCO calls this “an unprecedented event!”, especially given the hostile circumstances between North and South Korea.
Another possible candidate for both Koreas to jointly inscribe as UNESCO World Heritage Site is DMZ, the natural treasure untouched by human beings for decades, possessing historical value. South Korea submitted the second single application in September 2018, after the failed attempt in November 2011. There are growing voices in both public and private sectors that joint inscription may be necessary to be successful this time.
Updated on June 21, 2019
Latest News on DMZ UNESCO Heritage: South Korean border now UNESCO biosphere reserves
Source: [The Korea Times]
On June 19, at the 31st International Coordinating Council for MAB (Man and Biosphere Program) held at the organization's headquarters in Paris, June 19, it was announced that large areas on the South Korean side of inter-Korean border have earned UNESCO's designation of "biosphere reserves" in recognition of their biodiversity. The UNESCO council advised that the DMZ's southern regions in Gangwon be designated by the South Korean government or regional authorities as special protective areas to preserve biodiversity and wildlife habitats.
The environment ministry's national environment policy office chief Yoo Seung-gwang described the UNESCO designation as "a valuable achievement from our second attempt to push the regions for the title after the UNESCO council turned it down in 2012."
The environment ministry also mentioned that, alongside the inter-Korean peace-building process, it will work with North Korea to have DMZ regions on both sides of the border designated UNESCO biosphere reserves.
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The armistice line of the Korean peninsula in accordance with the armistice agreement divides the South and the North in the vicinity of the 38th line (38th parallel), which was already the boundary between the South and the North before the Korean War.
The DMZ on the Korean peninsula is a demilitarized zone with the width of 4 km (2km to the north and 2km to the south).
The demilitarized line, which is the base line of the DMZ, has an oblique appearance slightly off the original 38th line, as shown in the picture. It is because the military demarcation line was decided based on the military confrontation line of the two Koreas, not the correct 38th parallel line at the time of the armistice agreement.
The DMZ has a total length of 250 km and a width of 4 km. The DMZ, which divides the South and the North, is defined as a demilitarized zone, but ironically, DMZ is surrounded, on both sides, by the most heavily armed military zones in the world.