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DPRK’s forest area (89,273 km2) is consisted of 72.5% of its total country area (123,138 km2). The average altitude is 586 meter, but 77% of the mountains is in the range of 100 – 1,000 meters. There are over 10,000 rivers and streams, 100 lakes, and 1,700 reservoirs. The country has temperate climate with clear four seasons with average temperature of 8-12 degree Celsius and average precipitation of 1,000 -1,200 mm. Most of the forests include pines, cone pine, white pine, larch, oak, maple, linden tree, willow, etc. 9,950 types of plants and 9,970 types of animals are identified (Jang 2014).


(trend of annual precipitation in DPRK)

In the last several decades, about 3 million hectares of DPRK forests have been destroyed. The current size of the DPRK forests is estimated to be about 5.7 million hectares that have been reduced more than 30% from 8.2 million hectares in 1990. One of greatest impacts of this general deforestation is the frequent landslide (Ri 2014).


(Landslides caused by deforestation)


The area called “Sepo-deungpan” is located in Sepo-Ichon-Pyonggang counties, Gangwon-do, DPRK which is just the north of the DMZ. The 50,000-hectare-area of a huge meadow is at about 700 meter height above sea level. The area is very windy and cold reaching minus 30 degree Celsius during the winter. According to an official from the DPRK Ministry of Land and Environment Protection, about 40,000 hectares of natural prairie were already constructed for cattle and about 10,000 hectares of pasture is being constructed for growing stock feed during the winter.


(Map of Pyonggang, DPRK)


(Beginning of Sepo-deungpan comprising Sepo-Ichon-Pyonggang County)


(From left: Daniel Lee (OGKM), Ri Kyung Sik (DPRK MLEP), Paul Kim (OGKM), Seung-ho Lee (DMZF & OGKM)


(Endless view of the Sepo-deungpan leading to the DMZ)

In addition to constructing prairie for animals, workers are building various facilities for humans and animals for a living.


(Facility for animals in Sepo-deungpan)


(Housing for workers in Sepo-deungpan)


(Mountain view along with rainbow from Sepo-deungpan; Seung-ho Lee)

While coming down from the mountains of Sepo-deungpan, we luckily saw a rainbow which lasted only about 3 minutes.

From Pyongyang to Sepo-deungpan, we should go through Wonsan, an Eastern port city. If we use the Wonsan Airport, we can make about a three hour trip to Sepo-deungpan from Wonsan by car.

Toward the ultimate preservation of Korea’s DMZ corridor for peace and environmental renewal it is proposed to develop a model system showing the environmental, economic and humanitarian benefits of building a cooperative agro-forestry zone nearby the land of DMZ corridor. In the end, the transformation of the entire DMZ into a peace zone requires that North and South Korea enter into a joint enterprise to fully realize such benefits. (Kim and Wilson 2002). In fact, there are numerous successful examples for biodiversity conservation in protected areas and peace parks from many countries around the world (Westing 1993, Aureli and de Wall 2000, Ali 2007). That should result in advancing more peaceful relations between previously antagonistic nations.  

Similarly, we have already started working on some details on transboundary parks and nature reserves for peace, ecology, history, and culture across the territorial boundary, linking Mt. Sorak, Mt. Keumgang, and the Cheorwon-Pyonggang plateau. In this process, we have acquired a full acknowledgement on the need for a peaceful and environmentally-friendly use of the DMZ and its surrounding areas from South Korean government and NGOs. But as the trust level between the two Koreas has become quite low, there has been no effective communication between the two Koreas about the need for the peaceful use of the DMZ and its surroundings.

Under this circumstance, international NGOs such as One Green Korea Movement (OGKM) and The DMZ Forum (DMZF) are playing a bridging role in linking the two Koreas. DMZF will work together with OGKM to build an agro-forestry zone in Sepo-deungpan in Pyonggang, Gangwon-do, DPRK. The goal for creating this agro-forestry zone is to show the potential of transforming a former war zone into a peace zone with great environment, economic and humanitarian benefits for the world. The fruits and products produced by this agro-forestry zone will be shared by all the needy children in the world. Through this initial construction of the agro-forestry zone, we could achieve the following objectives: 1) improvement of the children’s health; 2) economic interaction for worldwide humanitarian needs; 3) reducing military and political tension on the Korean peninsula.

As the preliminary survey of the model area of Sepo-deungpan, Pyonggang, DPRK, is completed in late July 2014, logistic details, such as site design, methods and materials, protocols, personnel, budgets, and others, would be developed soon.

Ultimately, this pilot project would give us a capacity and confidence in continuous monitoring and reporting on the program in DPRK that is handled by International NGOs in cooperation with the local organizations. Providing capacity building through agro-forestry zone incurs carbon reduction and economic market. Soil and water resources will be protected and biodiversity and agricultural productivity will be improved. Also, environments for human recreation will be constituted.

Seung-ho Lee:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

It is hoped this project will lead to more open communication and collaboration between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK) on the conservation of Red-crowned Cranes (Grus japonensis) in both nations, and in particular the preservation of vital crane habitats in and near the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the current wintering site of cranes that formerly wintered on the Anbyon Plain.

This project has its beginning through collaboration between Dr. Chong Jong Ryol of the Korean University, Tokyo, and Dr. Pak U Il of the State Academy of Sciences (SAS), Pyongyang.  Now the International Crane Foundation (ICF), BirdLife International (BI), SAS and Pisan Cooperative Farm of the DPRK hope to collaborate to restore Red-crowned Cranes (Grus japonensis) as winter visitors on the Anbyon Plain (DPRK). Efforts will be made to attract the wild cranes, using captive cranes.   In exchange for farm equipment and training in organic farming techniques, the farmers have agreed to provide food for the cranes.  Concurrent with the restoration program for cranes, a comprehensive study of the avifauna of the Anbyon Plainwill be undertaken, research we hope eventually leads to the restoration of riparian, grassland and forest habitats.

Project Goal
To restore the Red-crowned Cranes as a winter resident on the Anbyon Plain

Project Objectives

  1. To strengthen farming practices and conservation education at Pisan Cooperative Farm to help the farmers and to assure availability of grain to feed cranes and consolidate a willingness to help the cranes.
  1. To use captive cranes to attract wild cranes to land at the Pisan Cooperative Farm.
  1. To feed and protect the wild cranes when they return to the Anbyon Plain.
  1. To study the cranes and monitor the avifauna of the Anbyon Plain.
  1. To use this international cooperative program as a stepping stone to the conservation of Red-crowned Cranes and their habitats in other regions of the Korean peninsula.

To all Koreans, the iconic and majestic Red-crowned Crane is an auspicious symbol of good luck, happiness, and long life.  The logo of the DPRK state airline, Air Koryo, is a crane.  Hundreds of cranes adorn the high walls that surround the mausoleum of Kim IL Sung.  In both Korean states the Red-crowned Crane is strictly protected as a Natural Monument. 

The Red-crowned Crane is endemic to northeast Asia. Primarily attributed to hunting and habitat loss during the past century, they are now endangered.  There are two populations: a non-migratory group of about 1200 individuals in northern Japan, and a migratory group of about 1,500 on the Asian mainland.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) was once a major wintering area for Red-crowned Cranes.  They fed on large invertebrates in the tidal pools and mudflats of the west coast, and on gleanings in rice paddies in more inland areas.  Prior to 1990, the former USSR provided DPRK with an ample supply of petroleum products to produce chemical fertilizers.   Following the evolution of the USSR into several sovereign states, petroleum products had to be purchased from Russia, leaving the DPRK with insufficient amounts of fertilizer.  The DPRK leader encouraged farmers to develop organic fertilizers, the use and proficiency of which is now coming back into practice.  But competition between birds and farmers for precious farm lands, fields and food resources have helped to stress and endanger Korean crane populations.

To promote goodwill and economic progress amongst the Korean people, Hyundai Corporation from ROK funded construction of a large tourism center at Mount Kumgang in DPRK just north of the eastern portion of the DMZ.  Hundreds of tourists from ROK visit Mt. Kumgang daily to the economic benefit on DPRK.  Other corporations from ROK built a complex of factories in DPRK just north of the western portion of the DMZ.  Using ROK capital and DPRK labor, commerce flourishes to the benefit of both states.  Now planners are hoping to develop land in the DMZ and the CCZ.  One option proposes turning the most important wintering site for cranes, the Chorwon Basin, into Reunification City! 

These ominous threats to the welfare of cranes and other wildlife together with their habitats in the DMZ and ROK influenced the International Crane Foundation and BirdLife International to initiate communication with colleagues in DPRK.   Dr. George Archibald, ICF co-founder and DMZ Forum board member, visited DPRK March 25 – April 8, 2008, to meet with the nation’s leading ornithologist and conservationist, Dr. Pak U Il, and his colleagues at the Biodiversity and Eco-Engineering Center of the State Academy of Sciences in Pyongyang.  Dr. Archibald was accompanied by Dr. William Duckworth, a British ornithologist and conservationist, who had worked in DPRK on a conservation program for several years.   The joint team then traveled to the east coast to meet with leaders of the agriculture community at the most important former wintering area for Red-crowned Cranes in DPRK, the Anbyon Plain, near the port city of Wonsan just north of Mt. Kumgang and the DMZ.  March 28-30 they visited the Anbyon Plain and met with the Manager of Pisan Cooperative Farm, Mrs. Kim Yon Sim, the Chairman of the Anbyon County People’s committee, Mrs. Kang Yong Ok, and several other leaders.

This project has been approved by the Government of DPRK perhaps because organic farming and the conservation of Red-crowned Cranes were already priorities of the government.  The migration of cranes between the Anbyon Plain in DPRK and the Chorwon Basin along the DMZ in ROK provides an opportunity for information exchange between researchers and conservationists in the two states.  Helping the cranes is becoming a venue for scientific exchange between the two Korean states.  This cooperation promotes goodwill in one of the most politically sensitive and potentially dangerous spots on earth.  Helping the cranes can be to the widespread benefit of humans and ecosystems.

  • Collar NJ, Birdlife International. 2001. Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International red data book. Cambridge, U.K: BirdLife International.
  • Ireson, Randall, 2006.  Agriculture Development in North Korea: From Fertilizer to Farming Systems.  Publication of the American Friends Service Committee.
  • Ireson, Randall. 2007.  The Knowledge Sharing Experience in Agriculture.  Presented at the Conference, Ten Prospects for International Cooperation in Knowledge Sharing in Service of Economic Development in DPRK. Korea Institute for International Policy,  Seoul.
  • Meine CD, Archibald GW. 1996. The cranes: status survey and conservation action plan. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.
  • Higuchi, Hiroyoshi, Kiyoaki Ozaki, Go Fujita, Jason Minton,  Mutsuyuki Ueta, Masaki Soma, Nagahisa Mita. “Satellite Tracking of White-naped Crane Migration and the Importance of the Korean Demilitarized Zone.” Conservation Biology, Volume 10, No. 3: June 1996, 806-812.  

Dr. George Archibald
Co-Founder\Senior Conservationist
International Crane Foundation (ICF)
E 11376 Shady Lane Road
Baraboo, WI 53913 USA
608-356-9462 ext. 156 office
608-356-3454 home
608-356-9465 fax
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Hall Healy
The DMZ Forum, Inc.
Principal: Facilitated Solutions International
543 Woodlawn Avenue
Glencoe, Illinois 60022 USA
847-373-7770 phone
847-835-1408 fax
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The intact, natural systems of the eastern region of the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) represent a remarkable opportunity for the creation of a trans-boundary peace park, supporting conservation and sustainable ecological services for future generations of the Korean people.

A remarkable and rich convergence of physical and biological conditions exists in the eastern portion of the North and South Korean demilitarized (DMZ) border region. From the rich agricultural basin of the Cheorwon plains in the central region, the terrain grades quickly eastward into the Taebaek-san mountain range, forming the Korean peninsula's eastern backbone. This cordillera contains two magnificent and culturally important mountains, Keumgang-san in the north and Seorak-san in the south. The area encompassed by the virtual Cheorwon, Keumgang, Seorak triangle supports a high diversity of plant and animal species, contains critical habitat areas for several threatened migratory bird species and represents some of the last remaining intact large-block habitat patches within the Korean peninsula.

For the benefit, prosperity and long-term well-being of the Korean people, we propose the establishment of a trans-boundary peace park encompassing this legendary region.  This outline describes the concept, benefits and purposes of a “Korean DMZ Peace and Nature Park” with recommendations on objectives, strategies and program activities to initiate and promote the creation of this peace park.

  • To promote peace by initiating a mutually beneficial joint enterprise between North and South Korea.  Countries around the world have successfully employed cross-boundary peace park planning and implementation with a resulting increase in peaceful relations.
  • To provide profitable eco-tourism and other sustainable ecosystem and natural resource service enterprises for both nations and all Koreans, thereby assisting in maintaining and improving the health and well-being of all Koreans.
  • To offer visitors, scientists and the world at large valuable data, information and real time opportunities to learn, observe and study how nature regenerates and restores.
  • To establish a reserve to preserve threatened species, resources and habitats and provide refugia, biodiversity and genetic reserves for the restoration of systems across the Korean peninsula.
  • To provide a place to honor fallen soldiers and citizens from Korea and other nations and the cultural history of all Korea.

The DMZ is an historic monument of Korea’s civil war that also offers the opportunity to serve as a symbol of peace for a divided nation. The Korean DMZ was established over a half a century ago following the armistice of Korea’s civil war. While portions were intensely disturbed during the course of the 3 year conflict, the systems have since recovered in the near absence of human impacts for over half a century.  These ecosystems contain globally irreplaceable ecological and genetic resources that can serve as a long-term biodiversity cache to help conserve and can be drawn upon to help restore Korea’s natural history, systems and landscapes (Kim 1997, 1999, Kim 2006, 2007, Kim and Wilson 2002).  A Peace and Nature Park within the Gangwon region of the DMZ represents a way to recapture Korea’s tradition of “…land of embroidered mountains and rivers.”

The DMZ and adjacent CCZ (Civilian Control Zone) stretches the ~250 km (150 miles) length of the Korean peninsula and varies from 5 to 20 kilometers (3 - 12 miles) wide.  The Southern portion of the DMZ is rated of “High Preservation Value” within the South Korean National Environmental Zoning Map. The zone is traversed by many rivers and riparian systems, and includes rich matrices of forests, wetlands, prairies, bogs and estuaries. Between Mt. Keumgang and Mt. Seorak, there is near primary forest vegetation, consisting of large tracks of unbroken forests and grass lands. Partial surveys have found over 1,200 plant species; 2,700 wildlife species, including habitat suitable for Asiatic Black Bear, Amur leopard, lynx and the rare Amur Goral. Hundreds of bird species are found here, several of which, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), are globally endangered, including the Black-faced Spoonbill, Red-crowned and White-napped Cranes and Black Vulture; and over 80 fish species, 18 being endemic. These species represent over 2/3 of those found in Korea; and it is thought that the DMZ may be the only place where many of them still exist. Hundreds of bird species migrate through the DMZ going to and from Mongolia, China, Russia, Vietnam, Japan, the Philippines and Australia. Some 10% of the world’s cranes winter on the Cheorwon Plain in the CCZ.  The DMZ also contains a vast wealth of culturally and archeologically significant sites. Famed Harvard biologist, Edward O. Wilson, has called it “Yosemite and Gettysburg all rolled into one.”

While conserving the natural and cultural resources is enormously compelling, it also becoming increasingly urgent. With available land becoming a precious commodity, every year, more and more development is taking place closer and closer to the area, especially the CCZ, bringing with it increased air and water pollution, habit fragmentation and invasions by non-native species.

  • DMZ Forum. 2009. Korean DMZ  Peace and Nature Park: Project Proposal (.PDF).  http://dmzforum.org
  • Green Korea United. 2008. Summary of 2008 DMZ Environmental Report (unpublished). Personal communication.

To know more about the project, please contact:

Hall Healy
The DMZ Forum, Inc.
Principal: Facilitated Solutions International
543 Woodlawn Avenue
Glencoe, Illinois 60022 USA
847-373-7770 phone
847-835-1408 fax
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.