Finding hidden treasureMany of the landmarks on the Korean Peninsula are in North Korea. Not to mention Mount Paektu, the Gaema Plateau and the Aprok River have been blessed by the crustal movements of the Cenozoic period.
The biggest natural lake created by long sedimentation can also be found in the North. The area was a bay originally, but the earth and sand flushed by the Tumen River were pushed out by the seawater, creating a natural levy around the saltwater lake. The circumference of the two lakes connected by a narrow channel is 45 kilometers (30 miles), seven times the size of Yeouido in Seoul.
From the observation deck in Fangchuan, a triple border village where China, North Korea and Russia meet, on a clear day, the lakes can be seen beyond the Korean-Russian Friendship Bridge over the Tumen River.
The participants in the Peace Odyssey journeyed 1,400 kilometers along the border region between China and North Korea last month, and when they arrived at the lakes, they argued whether it was a tributary to the Tumen River or a lake.
It is a shame that most people don’t even know about the existence of the lakes. People have lost interest over time as seven decades of division suspended exchanges between South and North Korea. It may not be a big deal to not know about the lakes, but as a result of the long division, Koreans become increasingly uninformed about the internal situations in the North, and this is a serious problem.
China is targeting Asia and Europe with the extensive One Belt, One Road project, turning the focus of trade to the west. The Korean Peninsula is not in the range of the project. Under the umbrella of the United States, Japan is getting back to militarism to contain China. The North Korean nuclear issue is complicated enough, and there are many other troubles on the Korean Peninsula.
In order not to get lost in this situation, Korea should find a breakthrough in inter-Korean relations. The key is exchanges and cooperation, and flying to Beijing and Vladivostok for a train tour of Eurasia is not enough. The one-time event organized by multiple nations that skips a route through South and North Korea will hardly bring changes.
President Park Geun-hye has finally established a strong bond between the party and the Blue House after various issues. It is a good sign that the vaccination and antibiotic assistance for North Korea’s tuberculosis and rubella problem came as soon as the government fastened the shoestrings. North Korea is dependent on sending workers abroad and clumsy tourism businesses. Now is the time to open our wallets and show the cards that we have prepared.
The author is a deputy political news editor of JTBC.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 16, Page 34
by CHEONG YONG-WHAN