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:
The DMZ Forum, Inc.
Principal: Facilitated Solutions International
543 Woodlawn Avenue
Glencoe, Illinois 60022 USA