Demilitarized Zone (DMZ): an area in which treaties or agreements between nations, military powers or contending groups forbid military installations, activities or personnel. A DMZ often lies along an established frontier or boundary between two or more military powers or alliances – Wikipedia
The Korean war, which began with the invasion of South Korea, disrupted the nature and civilization of the Korean peninsula. South Korea regained half of its territory when America and UN forces joined the war, but nothing could recover the blood of the young soldiers requisitioned from all over the world suffered during the war.
After the ceasefire agreement, South Korea and North Korea made a settlement to install the DMZ, which centers the Military Demarcation Line, or the MDL, with a length of 4 kilometers around the boundary. Accessing the MDL was allowed only by the Military Armistice Commission (MAC). Nevertheless, North Korean soldiers violated the rules between the two nations numerous times. The entrance to this area was eventually prohibited, except the Joint Security Area (JSA), after a ‘brutal axing incident.’
The JSA is a special area in DMZ where forces from the two nations can confront each other face-to-face. In 2004 the duties of protection(security role) were handed over to the Republic of South Korean forces. However, the command still lies with the UNC. In the JSA, several agents from the USA and diplomats from Sweden and Switzerland are residing under the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission. The DMZ, except for the JSA, was completely out of reach for the last 60 years and left thoroughly deserted after the war.
This forgotten area recently received attention by the international community for its value in preserving the ecosystem itself, without the human touch. The plant and animal species living in the DMZ are considered to be a valuable subject for ecological research and an essential reason to secure peace between the nations for their protection. 4800 living organisms currently inhabit the area, including prehistoric animals.
However, different people see different futures for the DMZ. Most have suggested creating an international natural park in the zone. Others have suggested donating the area to the UN for its contribution to the war, or to station a Korean UN Secretariat office. Diplomats from different countries regularly hold symposiums over what to do with the DMZ if unification of South Korea and North Korea takes place. Korean government and citizens are enthusiastic to preserve its nature. The surprising fact is that North Korea is also showing interests in preserving DMZ. In fact, The Solutions Journal stated that “the DMZ Forum, a nonprofit, internationally recognized NGO… is partnering with a number of foundations and organizations to support reforestation efforts in North Korea led by Kim Ho-Jin, dean of the College of Forestry at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. Kim has been engaged in reforestation efforts throughout North Korea, with particular attention to the nation’s mountainous areas, which are especially vulnerable to erosion.”
The DMZ Forum’s primary and long-term goal, however, is to gain approval from both the ROK and the DPRK to nominate the entire DMZ and its adjacent Military Control (DPRK) and Civilian Control (ROK) Zones as a cultural and natural World Heritage Site.
The DMZ not only shows how nature can successfully conserve and recover on its own but also highlights the need to preserve the beautiful nature and wildlife residing in the DMZ. Moreover, the DMZ is meant to secure the perfect reason for a ceasefire or even reunification. The DMZ never fails to remind us of the tragedy of war. If we successfully end this Korean War, the fate of the DMZ will be the biggest challenge that the two Korean nations will need to agree on, for the sake of their countries. We hope that the DMZ will someday slough the painful memory of the Korean War that occurred over six decades ago, and be transformed into an educational venue symbolizing peace.