Do you think the DMZ should be recognised as a natural reserve or UNESCO World Heritage site? And does drawing the attention of people to this landscape threaten its value as a kind of untouched place?
In the landscape of the DMZ, the human-made tragedies of war and the Cold War, and ironically, the power of nature which creates its own order beyond human control overlap in a disorderly manner. While the DMZ has been an educational site for national security, the shift of interest to ecology shows a change in attitude that attempts to recognise this space of conflict as that of peace. The various layers of landscapes in the green buffer zone contest anthropocentric thinking and allow us to imagine different paths and possibilities.
The DMZ is a 248 km-long ecological axis that runs horizontally across the Korean Peninsula. Consisting of clusters of mountains, plains, and wetlands, it conserves a pre- industrial temperate habitat. Paying attention to the questions posed by this site that holds one of the most well-preserved nature that is hard to find anywhere else in Asia and Europe, we need to pay more attention to conservation rather than development.
The DMZ is home to more than 5,000 species, 106 of which have protected status, the South Korean Ministry of Environment reports. White-naped cranes and black-faced spoonbills are among the rarer species to seek refuge there, among the minefields and abandoned towns.
"We call the region an accidental paradise," says Seung-ho Lee, president of the DMZ Forum, a group that campaigns to protect the area's ecological and cultural heritage. "Scientists are amazed by this reclamation by nature, regenerated by itself. So many scientists really want to research what happened for the last more than six decades. In that regard, it is a really unprecedented area."
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