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Gov’t touts its plan for DMZ peace park

Jan 27,2015
South Korea will promote its plan to create an ecological park inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ) along the inter-Korean border at an international conference this week, a government official said Monday.

A delegation from the Ministry of Unification and the Ministry of Environment are scheduled to attend the meeting by the Standing Committee for the Ramsar Convention, the source added.

The conference is set to run from Monday to Friday in Gland, Switzerland. “We will explain the plan for the DMZ ecological peace park to the officials of the international organization,” he said.

The delegation may also have an opportunity to promote its plan to North Korea, the source said. Although it is not a formal member of the convention, North Korea is reportedly attending the conference as an observer.

President Park Geun-hye first introduced the idea during a 2013 address to the U.S. Congress, promoting the construction of an ecological park inside the DMZ that bisects the two Koreas as a trust-building measure.

The DMZ is a 4-kilometer-wide (2.5-mile-wide) border that runs about 250 kilometers across the Korean Peninsula. Despite its name, it is the most heavily armed border in the world, with about 1 million soldiers from the two Koreas and the United States.

North Korea’s cooperation is crucial for the project, though Pyongyang has so far remained unenthusiastic about the proposal.

In April last year, the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland said Park’s proposal was nothing new, as her predecessors had presented similar ideas.

“National division is heartbreaking and embarrassing, but the South wants to use the DMZ as an attraction for a money-making business, instead of removing it as soon as possible,” the North said at the time.

The Park administration has continued to push forward with the project, however. When the government briefed President Park earlier this month about its key projects for the year, the Ministry of Unification said that it would seek cooperation from the international community. The United Nations Command has jurisdiction over the DMZ.

The ministry also said it had conducted an initial site inspection in December with the support of civilian experts and other government offices, including the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

BY SER MYO-JA [myoja@joongang.co.kr]





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