Let’s check the value of the DMZ
Since the Armistice Agreement was signed for the Korean War, the DMZ has been holding its position, free from contact of human beings. Such geological features have helped enhance the value of the DMZ in terms of history, security, ecology, and culture.
The downstream Hangang River at the western end of the DMZ, and surrounding areas have been the center of the Korean peninsula’s history from ancient times to modern times. Shilla, which took the control of the area, ultimately unified the three kingdoms including Goguryeo and Baekje. Gaeseong, the capital of Goryeo, which held hegemony of the Korean peninsula, is the city where the Armistice Agreement for the Korean War started and the Gaeseong Industrial Complex, a symbol of inter-Korean exchanges, was established. Seoul, the capital of Joseon Dynasty, has been the central city of the Korean peninsula for more than 600 years. When the inter-Korean relations is improved in a forward-looking manner or the Korean peninsula is reunified, the historical value of the DMZ, located between Seoul and Pyongyang, will change again.
For three years, approximately 1.5 million young people from 16 countries participated in the Korean War and many of them were brutally sacrificed. More than 60 years have passed since the Armistice Agreement was signed. Unfortunately, heavily armed soldiers from North and South Korea are still pointing guns at each other from each side of the DMZ. The last frontier of the Cold-War under the high tension, shows all of people who visit the area the tragedy of the war and encourages them to refresh their commitment to preventing the war from taking place again.
For those years when human beings were not allowed to access, the nature of the DMZ has created an abundant and unique ecology that offers an excellent shelter for various wild animals. A heaven for numerous rare species living in widely dispersed forests, valleys, wetlands, fields of reeds, swam, and mud flat, the DMZ boasts a high ecological value as to be called the repository of the world’s natural ecosystem.
In 2009, TIME, a US weekly magazine selected the DMZ (Panmunjom) as one of 25 places to visit in Asia in its article, “Step into living cold war history.” Foreign visitors to Korea find the DMZ and Panmunjom very unique attractions that they cannot see in other countries. The DMZ is the place that alerts the generation who has not experienced the war to its danger and encourages them to dream of world peace. For those who purse peace with no war, it is a place of pilgrimage of war as well as the opportunity for tourism and history education.
Efforts are being made to enhance the understanding of the DMZ
Continues efforts to create spaces and offer events for residents’ leisure and activities
Gyeonggi-do has been constructing Pyenghwa-Nuri gil and Cheorwon-gun DMZ Eco Peace Park Trail in connection with Gimpo, Goyang, Paju, and Yencheon-gun, and holding various events, including: Walking Event (since 2010), bicycles tour (since 2012), Peaceful Unification Marathon (2015), and Ultra Trail (new). In addition, a plan is underway to develop Camp GREAVES, the only youth hostel in the CCL, as the concept tourism base by combining culture, art, and security aspects based on geological and historical characteristics. The DMZ Eco Tourism Support Center (to be open in the latter half of 2016) will play the role of the ecology and tourism hub or the base for international exchanges.
Efforts to vitalize villages in the border area in the DMZ
Efforts have been made to support restaurants in the form of association, B&B, and simple tourism programs that residents are operating on their own. For example, wrapping papers are being provided in the form of talent donation, to “DMZ Jangdankong Chocolate,” made by residents to let the DMZ brand known. An ecology experiencing education program is also run to help realize the importance to preserve environment surrounding the DMZ and understand tradition and culture of the regional community. An ethnography was also issued that covered the story of Tongilchon and Daeseong-dong. As part of efforts to make Tongilchon a brand, a museum was also open. In sum, various policies have been adopted for the development of villages and residents.
Cooperative projects with the world
Exchange with BfN (German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation)
Germany has been making the border area between East and West Germany, including “Iron Curtain” as Grunes Band and maintaining it under excellent conditions. Human beings’ access to the area has been limited for the past 30 years, so it was able to preserve good ecological environment. As a result, it has turned to a place for ecology, history, education, and tourism, since Germany was reunified in 1990. The project Grunes Band started under the leadership of BUND, an environmental NGO, supported by the central government. It completely changed military facilities, including patrol routes and watchtowers, that were used when Germany was divided, for education and tourism attractions. In addition, various tourist products that combined ecotourism, history, and culture tourism were developed contributing to the vitalization of the local economy. A series of tracking and bicycle courses were also developed to grow as the center of ecotourism in Europe.
In an effort to use the DMZ in an active manner, Gyeonggi-do and BfN signed a mutual agreement in 2012 and have been carrying out cooperative projects. For example, they held the Ecotourism Conference; jointly participated in the World Conservation Congress, published a joint photo collection; and held a photo exhibition at Pyeongchang and Berlin.
Efforts to preserve ecosystem
For the area surrounding the DMZ to be designated as Biosphere Reserve (BR) by the UNESCO, Gyeonggi-do has been making efforts so that an increasing number of migratory birds that fly through Russia and Mongolia visit for wintering. The new DMZ Eco Tourism Support Center will do its best to make the DMZ the center of ecology and tourism in the region. Additional programs are being offered to train ecotourism commentators; invite ecotourism experts; offer experience education to the DMZ ecosystem; hold DMZ Eco Culture Class to School; and visit ecological sites during international conferences. Efforts are being made to preserve ecosystem around the DMZ.