Peace to be found rather than tragedy at DMZ
Jun 12, 2012
The RHS Chelsea Flower Show was recently held in May in the UK. At the world’s biggest flower show, also known as a stage of dreams for garden artists, Korean artist Hwang Ji-hae received the Gold Prize in the category of large garden with the work “Quiet Time: DMZ Forbidden Garden.”
Hwang depicted the primitive beauty of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea and put the natural vegetation of the DMZ in her garden. At the world-famous flower show held by the Royal Horticultural Society, she touched judges and visitors with the story about the DMZ contained in her work.
One British garden magazine said “ ‘Quiet Time: Korean DMZ Forbidden Garden’ gained Gold for its sheer quality and the excellence of the design, but its remarkable feature was the fact that it has powerful and accessible emotional content.” The magazine also added, “A discussion of reconciliation and healing which clearly came from the heart and made the rest of the show look pretty and shallow.”
North and South Korea entered into a state of armistice in 1953. In the same year, the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) was formed between the countries and the DMZ was also established based on the location of the MDL. As the DMZ symbolizes provisional peace, it is valued and recognized as a tool or symbol for maintaining peace.
Starting from the bottom of the Imjin River, the 248-kilometer MDL continues to Goseong in Gangwon-do (Gangwon Province). The DMZ is two kilometers wide on each side, with south and north making a total width of four kilometers. In the DMZ, no troops or weapons are allowed. In this 907-square-kilometer no-man's land, no one has been allowed to enter for more than 60 years; its natural ecosystem has been maintained as it was for over a half century. Known as a repository of a natural ecosystem, the ecological value of the Korean DMZ has been highly praised worldwide.
The DMZ is also one of the most-wanted tourist destinations among foreign nationals visiting and residing in Korea. It welcomes around 6.2 million visitors a year, more than a million of whom are foreign tourists.
From May 19 to 21, six cities around the DMZ held the International Peace and Life Festival, which was organized to promote the importance of life and peace in the demilitarized zone. The festival included such events as the Peace & Life Concert, the DMZ Peace Bike Competition, and the DMZ Eco-Tour Program. Hoping for peaceful reunification of the country, more than 2,000 participants including foreign nationals enjoyed the meaningful festival.
Since 2010, the Gyeonggi Provincial Government has been working on the Pyeonghwa Nuri-gil Trail, a hiking path near the DMZ. Connecting the four cities in Gyeonggi-do including Gimpo, Goyang, Paju, and Yeoncheon, the Pyeonghwa Nuri-gil (meaning ‘peace world path’) is being built to represent Korea’s wishes for a peaceful world and an end to the war in the nation.
Along the trail, visitors can appreciate the natural environment around the DMZ and witness various historical sites that show the tragic national division such as fortresses, columnar joint cliffs, and ancient ferries.
Imjingak, located only seven kilometers away from the DMZ, symbolizes the realities of the divided Koreas. It is frequently visited by Korean people cut off from their hometowns in the North following the Korean War. Imjingak Pyeonghwa-nuri was constructed in 2005, with some parks and structures as part of the Global Peace Festival held in the same year by the provincial government.
Among the various arts and culture programs held there along with eco-tour programs around the DMZ, the one-day program PEEP Your DMZ (Primary Eco Experience Program) has become popular among children. The program includes a nature visit around the DMZ including the Imjin River and the Chopyeongdo wetland to see nature and learn of the history within. Moreover, from February to November, a bike tour is held on the last Sunday of every month as well as various movie screenings on weekdays in July and August.
The Ministry of Environment is planning to build a DMZ Ecology and Peace Park in Cheolwon, Gangwon-do. Starting this year, it will arrange routes and locations for the park and in 2013 it will establish convenient facilities such as accommodations. Through an operational consultation group with the participation of local citizens, it will also prepare detailed measures such securing the safety of visitors and make reservations for visits.
“We’ll build an observatory that enables viewing of the DMZ or trails that allow ecological hiking so that the DMZ Park can be a world-renowned place for national security and ecology,” an official from the ministry said.
As the year of 2013 will mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the DMZ, local governments in Korea have been busy conducting various projects and programs to transform the DMZ into a place that people from all around the world can visit to wish for peace. Imjingak will be equipped with more facilities such as a promotion room for foreign visitors, and one of the surrounding villages of the DMZ will be selected to offer an ecological education program for visitors.
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