"The DMZ: A Rich Ecological Treasure Created by the Division of the Korean Peninsula "


    

        On July 27, 1953, about three years after the start of the Korean War on June 25, 1950, 
        representatives of the United Nations and the North Korean communist regime signed an 
        armistice agreement to bring the war to a cease-fire.  As a result, a demilitarized zone 
        was created along the military demarcation line separating North and South Korea.
  
	Now 47 years later, the area is a natural haven for a variety of flowers, plants and 
        animals facing distinction.  Although right after the cease-fire, the area was so 
        devastated that no tree or plant was left standing, it is an internationally recognized 
        ecology.  The DMZ is living proof of nature's amazing power of sustainability.  

        It is also evidence of what the environment would be like if untouched by human hands.
	Cutting across the Korean peninsula from east to west, the DMZ is 248km long and 4km 
        wide-2km on each side of the military demarcation line, though it varies according to 
        the terrain and is as wide as 13kmn in some places. In the 50 years since the cease-fire 
        brought the fighting to a halt, the DMZ has become a rich ecological treasure recognized 
        by UNESCO and other international organizations while attracting much attention and 
        interest from ecologists and naturalist from around the world.
	
        From an ecological perspective, the DMZ can be categorized into three areas. 

        The first area is the downstream of the Imjingang River located at the western front of 
        the DMZ. It has many marine plants, amphibians, birds and mammals.  

        The second area is the Cheorwon plain at the center of the DMZ, which is a stopping 
        place for migratory birds.  
        
        The third area lies along the Mt. Hyangrobong ridge to the east.  It is an area rich in 
        animals and plants facing extinction, a clear example of ecological diversity.


Western Area
 	With support from the UNDP and the Korean government, Seoul National University 
        researched the western area for two and a half years from 1997 and found that it is 
        home to 99 species of marine plants, 361 species of land plants, 114 species of insects, 
        20 species of amphibians and reptiles, 11 species of mammals, 24 species of fishes and 
        58 species of birds. They include 11 endangered species--the yellow bittern, striated 
        heron, ruddy-breasted drake, water cock, little tern, gray nightjar, gray-faced green 
        woodpecker, great spotted woodpecker, pygmy woodpecker, azure-winged magpie and black-
        capped kingfisher--as well as 13 nationally designated natural monuments such as the 
        golden eagle, Manchurian crane, white-naped crane and common kestrel.  The area also 
        has internationally protected species such as gorani (a kind of roe deer) and sak 
        (a wild cat) and various species indigenous to Korea.  There are also wild creatures
        designated for protection by the Korean Ministry of Environment such as namsengi (a kind 
        of tortoise), gurungi (a kind of snake) and maengkkongi (a small round frog). 

       The research also revealed that the rich and varied ecology was the result of the natural
       linking of mountains, valleys, rivers, streams, forests and swamps.


Central Area
        The central area comprising the high-altitude Cheorwon plain area abounds in birds 
        including migratory ones.  It is particularly famous as the wintering ground of the 
        Manchurian crane.  This rare migratory bird is the subject of worldwide protection as
        there are only a thousand or so left in the world. About 10 percent of the world's 
        Manchurian cranes winter at Cheorwon.  The plain, which is covered in snow in winter, 
        is often called a paradise for migratory birds. In winter, in addition to the Manchurian 
        crane, it is visited by many other species, including endangered ones, such as the 
        white-naped crane, goose, mallard and eagle.  That is why Cheorwon has become a well-
        known place to observe and study birds, especially rare ones.
	The International Council for Bird Preservation has designated 17 birds including the 
        Manchurian crane, white-naped crane, hooded crane, Chinese egret, oriental stork, black-
        faced spoonbill, baikal teal, scaly-sided merganser, and spoonbill sandpiper as 
        endangered species and included them in their Red Data Book.  Of these, the Manchurian 
        crane, white-naped crane, hooded crane and scaly-sided merganser which was once thought  
        to be extinct, can be seen at the Cheorwon plain.

Eastern Area 
 	The mountainous eastern area is a treasure trove of plants, especially rare  northern 
        plants.  These include Korea sophora, nalgehanulnari (a kind of lily), biroyongdam, 
        white biroyangdam (a kind of Korean gentian), kurum paeraengi (a kind of pink), and 
        Kumgang aeginari (a kind of lily).  
	About 1,200m above sea level, just under the top of Mt. Daeam (1,316m above sea level) 
        lies Dragon Swamp, a world-renowned high-altitude swamp.  It is home to such rare plants 
        as diamond bluebell and Kumgang jebi (a kind of violet).  
        Among them, diamond bluebell (Kumgang chorong in Korean) is only found in Korea and was 
        first discovered at Mt. Kumgang before Korea's liberation from Japanese colonial rule 
        (1945).
	Because Mt. Daeam and the Doota region along the Hyangrobong ridge serve as an ecological
        path to Mt. Kumgang in North Korea, many experts note that once the two Koreas are 
        reunited, the area could be linked to the Mt. Kumgang zone including Mt. Musan (1,319m) 
        and Maebong (1,290m) north of the demarcation line to form a grand "central north 
        mountainous ecological zone." 
	The creation of the DMZ, also called the "cut waist of the Korean peninsula," is a 
        living lesson that shows the tragic modern history of Korea from historic, political and 
        military points of view.  But at the same time, it can be a global asset thanks to its
        ecological richness.  
	If the efforts toward inter-Korean reconciliation continue in the future, the two Koreas 
        will be faced with the contradictory tasks of destroying and developing and preserving 
        the DMZ.  Should that time come, we should approach it wisely and cautiously by 
        separating areas subject to absolute preservation from those for development.  
        
Even in the areas that will be developed, the key should be in achieving "environmentally sound 
and sustainable development."

 ** Resurrection of the Gyongeui Railway Line and Preservation of the DMZ's Ecology ** 

	The Gyongeui railway line that was broken in the middle with the division of Korea is 
        going to be re-linked.  Until the Korean War, this railway line extended 499km from 
        Seoul to Sineuiju in the far north of Korea by way of Pyongyang and Sinanju and served 
        as Korea's main transportation artery.  But after the division, a 20km section linking 
        South (Munsan to Jangdan, 2km) and North (Jangdan to Bongdong, 8km) was broken and left 
        to ruin. Since the division, only a 46km section of the Gyongeui line linking Seoul to 
        Munsan has been in operation.
	
        At the historic inter-Korea summit meeting in June, the two leaders agreed to put the 
        re-connection of the Gyongeui railway on the table for further discussion and at the 
        inter-Korea ministerial meeting on July 31, the two sides agreed to restore the 20km 
        section of the line.  The two sides also agreed to build a 4-lane road parallel to the
        railway track.
	
        The re-connection of the Gyongeui line is significant as it re-connects the entire 
        Korean peninsula by rail and will allow Korea to serve as a transportation hub to link 
        up with the trans-Siberian railway.  
	However, in light of preserving the ecology of the DMZ, a cautious approach is crucial.  
       
        A thorough environmental impact assessment of the railway on the DMZ ecology should be 
        carried out before the construction of the railway and road is undertaken.(2000/8/27)


                                                                           Jung-Nam Park 
                                                                               Columnist
| 민족의 자산 DMZ를 자연 그대로 보존하자 | | 여러분의 많은 참여를 바랍니다 |
| 섣부른 개발론을 경계한다 | | 비무장지대(DMZ)를 吟味한다. |
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