South Korea is making big changes to the Korean Peninsula’s Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The country just voted in a plan that will build a peace trail along the DMZ in honor of the Panmunjom Declaration, which was signed in April of last year by President Moon Jae-in and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
The first phase of the project will feature a hiking trail in the Gangwaon Province, located near the east side of Korea. Tourists will be able to explore the Unification Observatory and hike alongside barbed wire fences that divide the Korean Peninsula. Officials on both sides are guaranteeing the safety of all guests who hike along the trail.
“United Nations Command and the ROK [South Korea] government have demonstrated superb teamwork, collaboration, and coordination throughout the entire ‘peace trail’ process and will continue to do so,” Gen. Robert Abrams of the United Nations explained.
The DMZ spreads out over 160 miles and is located around 30 miles outside of Seoul. The area was first established in the wake of the Korean War and is part of the Korean War Armistice Agreement. For the past 60 years, the DMZ has been strictly off limits to visitors and was protected by landmines and fences.
Due to the severe restrictions enforced, the DMZ has become a place where endangered animals have thrived. In fact, several endangered species have been spotted in the area, including white-naped cranes, red-crowned cranes, musk deer, mandarin ducks and mountain goats. There have even been a few sightings of the Amur leopard, which is currently listed as critically endangered.
With the hiking trails set to open, environmentalists hope to preserve the delicate ecosystem while giving people the opportunity to explore the zone on their own.
In light of the abundance of wildlife, conservationists have been working hard to enact legislation that will help preserve the DMZ for future generations. The only issue is that both North Korea and South Korea will have to come together to finalize the arrangement, but can perhaps use the situation as a way to reconcile past differences.
The peace trail is the first step in bridging the gap between the two governments and will hopefully lead to further conservation efforts along the DMZ.
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