Seoul’s bid to Unesco for DMZ zone is deferred

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Seoul’s bid to Unesco for DMZ zone is deferred

The government’s effort to designate the demilitarized zone under its jurisdiction as a Unesco Biosphere Reserve failed yesterday after the multinational organization deferred the case.

Unesco’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Committee ruled that the request by the Ministry of Environment did not meet standards for the designation.

The ministry said the MAB’s decision was based on its judgment that Korea lacked secondary-zones, or buffer sites, which could be used to do research and support the preservation of the areas under protection. A case in point was the areas surrounding a border county of Cheorwon, Gangwon, located along the DMZ. The owners of land in the county objected to their property to be designated secondary-zones or buffer sites.

The Ministry of Environment submitted its application to register a total of 2,979 square kilometers (736,126 acres) in the DMZ and surrounding sites under civilian control as Biosphere Reserves.

“Though our case has been deferred this year, we will cooperate with locals along the DMZ line to reach an agreement to try one more time next year,” said an official at the ministry.

Some criticized the government for not making a joint application with North Korea. Environmental group Green Korea United released a statement claiming the case was deferred as the government applied “unilaterally without seeking cooperation from the North despite the global community’s recommendation of joint efforts by Seoul and Pyongyang.”

Once named a Biosphere Reserve, designated sites share internationally their experience of sustainable development and preservation projects based on local community efforts. So far, 598 sites in 117 countries are under the designation.

By Kang Jin-kyu [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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