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Ecological tourism zone planned along DMZ

2012/03/03 | 261 views |  | Permalink | Source

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Cyclists ride on a bicycle path built along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in Paju, Gyeonggi Province. Since the military opened the path to civilians in 2010, tens of thousands of cyclists have visited each year. (Courtesy of Gyeonggi Provincial Government)

The government will create an ecological tourism zone along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas to turn the largely-undisturbed area into a major tourism attraction.

The DMZ, an area protected since the end of the 1950-1953 Korean War, is known to be rich in biodiversity.

According to the Gyeonggi Provincial Government (GPG), over 3,000 species of rare animals and plants live in the 900 square kilometers of land. The DMZ stretches 248 kilometers from the west to the east, encompassing 15 towns and counties in Gyeonggi and Gangwon provinces.

"We will introduce a series of publicity campaigns and organize international events in 2012 to publicize that the DMZ is perfect for ecological tours", said Han tae-woo, the manager in charge of DMZ management at GPG. "We will first try to have the area recognized by the United Nations and other global conservation bodies as a highly-valuable ecosystem that should be preserved".

The provincial government expects the DMZ to be designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in July. It also plans to conduct joint research in the zone with the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources before asking the UNESCO World Heritage Center (WHC) to name it as a world heritage site.

"We will make the best use of the upcoming World Conservation Congress (WCC) meeting to be held on Jeju in September to promote the DMZ among international participants. We will also organize the 2012 World Ecotourism Conference near the DMZ in September", Han said.

The provincial government plans to hold a range of cultural and art performances in municipalities bordering the DMZ.

"On top of organizing international gatherings, we will develop an ecotourism package for both Korean and non-Korean tourists seeking to experience what the DMZ is like. We will try to provide tourists with an easier access to the tightly controlled zone by making more border areas available to visitors", the manager said.

Since 2010, tens of thousands of cyclists have used a bicycle path built along the DMZ in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, each year. The path has become a must visit spot for bike lovers.

"We think it is a long-term process to turn the areas near the DMZ and the zone itself into one of the world's major ecotourism destinations. But we will take a step-by-step approach to achieve our goal", Han said. "We will first let the world know more about the DMZ, and then take necessary steps to attract visitors".

The provincial government plans to build an international peace and ecological park and observatories along the zone.

By Lee Hyo-sik

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