September 23, 2011 11:25
Korea will seek to list the demilitarized zone and nearby restricted areas to civilians as a UNESCO biosphere reserve. No one has been allowed to live in the DMZ for 59 year, making it a haven for plants and wildlife.
The Environment Ministry submitted an application for biosphere reserve status to UNESCO on Thursday to preserve the 2,979 sq.km area and publicize its ecological and environmental values around the world. The International Co-ordinating Council of UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme will then make the final decision when it meets next June.
Biosphere reserves are designated by UNESCO to preserve "areas of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems promoting solutions to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use." To date, there are 580 Biosphere Reserves in 114 countries, including four in Korea -- Mt. Sorak, Jeju Island, the Shinan Dadohae, a group of islands along the southwestern coast of the Korean Peninsula, and Gwangneung Forest.
A ministry official said the listing will likely go through without much difficulty "because the DMZ’s ecological value is widely known around the world."
The reserve would consist of 1,078 sq.km including the city of Paju (426 sq.km) and Yeoncheon-gun (652 sq.km) in Gyeonggi Province and a 1,901 sq. km area including Cheorwon, Hwacheon, Yanggu, Inje, and Goseong in Gangwon Province.
"We've been trying to sound out North Korea through various channels whether it is interested in jointly seeking designation of the DMZ biosphere reserve status, but there was no response," the official said. "So we decided to apply on our own, excluding the North Korean part of the DMZ."
"We'll make sure that the area is developed in an eco-friendly way to allow nature and people to coexist. We are going to preserve the core ecological area in the DMZ while promoting ecotourism in the nearby areas that are comparatively less developed," he added.
The DMZ is an ecological treasure trove. According to an environmental survey conducted by the ministry between 2007 and 2009, about 2,716 species of flora and fauna, including endangered animals, thrive there.
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