[Letters] Biosphere reserve status for the DMZ is urgentLast month, the International Coordinating Council of Unesco’s Man and the Biosphere Programme in Paris, France postponed the designation of the biosphere reserve status for South Korean side of the demilitarized zone. The outcome may seem like a failure, but the discussion itself is meaningful in many ways.
Pyongyang expressed its opposition by sending letters to 32 council member countries, except for South Korea, and the Unesco headquarters a month prior to the meeting. At the council meeting, Pyongyang utilized political rhetoric, claiming that the designation violates the Armistice Agreement. However, not a single member country supported North Korea’s argument.
It is an important beginning for the international preservation efforts of the DMZ. And postponement is different from rejection. When the conditions mentioned as grounds for postponement are fulfilled, the proposal may be reviewed again and approved for the biosphere reserve designation.
After the meeting, the Unesco officials and the representatives of the International Coordinating Council member countries said that it was not a failure but a good opportunity to internationally publicize the ecological value and significance of peace of the demilitarized zone and Seoul’s will to preserve the ecosystem.
If the South Korean side of the DMZ is designated as a biosphere reserve first, it may be a silent pressure urging designation of the North Korea part as well. And it North Korea wishes to join the cause, there is a possibility to create an expanded biosphere reserve in the border region, for which both the Unesco and Seoul hope. The environmental efforts are in time for next year’s 60th anniversary of the creation of the demilitarized zone.
Cho do-soon, a professor of life science at the Catholic University of Korea
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