Lawmakers ponder DMZ peace park possibilities

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Lawmakers ponder DMZ peace park possibilities

Lawmakers yesterday held a debate on the direction of a project proposed by President Park Geun-hye, which calls for the construction of a peace park on the inter-Korean border in the demilitarized zone (DMZ).

The discussion was led by Saenuri lawmaker Rhee In-je, who heads the Group Promoting Unification of the Divided Koreas. The organization was launched last month by some 30 lawmakers of the ruling party who are aiming to boost cross-border cooperation under the Park administration.

“We were skeptical about whether Mount Kumgang could be [opened to tourists], and [the resort] was opened, and whether Kaesong Industrial Complex would be possible and it was realized,” said Rhee, a six-term lawmaker. “So I believe that the DMZ peace park - so long as we dream and move toward that target - will definitely be realized.”

He was joined by about a dozen lawmakers, including ruling Saenuri Party representatives Jeong Kab-yoon, Kil Jeong-woo and Sung Woan-jong, and independent lawmaker Moon Dae-sung.

Jeong said in his opening remarks that the peace park was a timely issue to discuss.

“President Park Geun-hye on her U.S. and China visits - and also in her Aug. 15 [Liberation Day] speech - has strongly emphasized the DMZ global peace park, and is working to build an understanding with the people,” he said.

The DMZ peace park is one of Park’s campaign pledges, and the government in September set aside 40.2 billion won ($37.8 million) for its establishment - envisioned by its supporters to become a symbol of reconciliation, cooperation and conservation. Park made a formal proposal to Pyongyang in her Liberation Day speech in August, calling for the construction of the park.

The second five-year policy plan for inter-Korean relations - proposed by the Ministry of Unification and pending final approval in the National Assembly - also called for the park’s creation.

But not all lawmakers have been so welcoming of the plan.

“The North Korean communist regime is anti-nationalistic, anti-democratic, anti-unification and anti-peace,” said Saenuri Representative Kyung Dae-soo, “so how will a global peace park be built?”

He called for a more thorough review.

Other lawmakers proposed the creation of a “garden,” rather than a park, and suggested that the name “DMZ United Nations Peace Garden” might prove to be economically beneficial and provide job opportunities.

BY SARAH KIM, KIM KYUNG-HEE [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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