DATE=7/12/2000 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=PRESERVING KOREA'S D-M-Z NUMBER=5-46649 BYLINE=STEPHANIE MANN DATELINE=WASHINGTON INTERNET=YES CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: As North and South Korea try to build on the goodwill from their recent summit, the two countries are looking to increase economic cooperation and arrange reunions of divided families. Correspondent Stephanie Mann reports that scientists and others concerned about the future of the Korean peninsula say the two sides also have a special responsibility to protect the environment. TEXT: When the Korean War ended in 1953, the two sides agreed to a truce along a demarcation line that splits the Korean peninsula in half. The Demilitarized Zone - known as the D-M-Z - created by the line is four-kilometers wide and 250-kilometers long. It is one of the most highly fortified boundaries in the world. Soldiers patrol both sides of the D-M-Z, and no one is allowed inside the zone. During the five decades since the Korean War, South Korea has undergone rapid economic development. Many areas of natural beauty have become industrial or agricultural sites, and environmental scientists say that has led to serious contamination of land and water. North Korea has spent the past few decades denuding its land of trees. The director of the Center for Biodiversity Research at the Pennsylvania State University, Ke Chung Kim, says that deforestation is directly related to North Korea's problems of food shortages and poverty. // KIM ACT ONE // North Korea has tremendous problems with flood and erosion, due to a series of ... deforestation. So, many of the mountainsides have clear cuts and a lack of trees. // END ACT // Professor Kim says the Demilitarized Zone is the only part of the Korean peninsula that has been untouched by human encroachment during the past 47-years. // OPT // KIM ACT TWO // Considering the devastation of environment in South and North Korea, that area (the DMZ) is basically the jewel of (the) Korean landscape and Korean ecosystems at large. // END ACT // END OPT // Professor Kim says habitat destruction in Korea has made many species extinct or endangered. He says nobody knows if any of those species are still alive in the D-M-Z. For example, Mr. Kim says leopards and tigers used to live on the Korean peninsula, and there may still be some in the Demilitarized Zone. He says other rare animals, including the black bear and the musk deer, are known to live in the buffer area outside the D-M-Z, called the Civilian Control Zone. In addition, Professor Kim says two species of seriously endangered birds - the white-necked crane and the red-crowned crane - use the D-M-Z and the Civilian Control Zone for a winter habitat on their migratory routes. // OPT // He says the buffer zone is home to more than 11-hundred vascular plants and 83-species of fish and accounts for more than 70-percent of the plant and animal biodiversity in Korea. // END OPT // To press the governments in Seoul and Pyongyang to preserve the nature that is flourishing in the D-M-Z, a new non-governmental organization has been created. Mr. Kim's Center for Biodiversity Research joined with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Institute of Public Administration at New York University to establish the D-M-Z Forum. The D-M-Z Forum wants the area declared a nature preserve for research and education. The executive director of the D-M-Z Forum, Seung Ho Lee, says many South Korean companies and local officials believe preservation of the D-M-Z would be an obstacle to future opportunities. For example, Mr. Lee says as North-South cooperation expands, they will want to reconnect railroads and highways across the Demilitarized Zone. // LEE ACT ONE // We have very strong opposition from private business, especially from South Korean businesses (which) are trying to develop the North Korean industrial complex, as well as they try to rebuild some bridges and roads and reconnect rails. So, we have strong opposition. Also, the local government is trying to oppose our ideas because their land prices will drop if the region has been preserved. // END ACT // Mr. Lee, who is with New York University's Institute of Public Administration, points out the Demilitarized Zone is under the jurisdiction of the U-N Armistice Commission. Therefore, he says neither side can take unilateral action regarding the future use or development of the D-M-Z. // OPT // He says a complicating factor will be the presence of landmines throughout the zone. Their locations are not known and are constantly changing because of floods and landslides. // END OPT // Mr. Lee says the D-M-Z Forum is working with people in South Korea, China, and Japan to survey the plant and animal life along the Demilitarized Zone. // OPT // LEE ACT TWO // We have to carefully survey the region as a whole and decide which region is very important for nature conservation and which can be rather limited (where) we can allow some of the sustainable development facilities. // END ACT // END OPT // And Mr. Lee says the D-M-Z Forum is also trying to educate the people and governments on both sides in Korea about the importance of preserving the area's environment. Professor Ke Chung Kim says the previous South Korean government, under President Kim Young Sam, publicly called for the D-M-Z to be preserved. But he says the current government of President Kim Dae Jung has not made that a priority. He says North Korea has indicated it does not object to preserving the area for conservation and peace. Professor Kim says he hopes that, as the North and South hold further talks, the idea of preserving the D-M-Z will be put on the agenda. He says both sides need to understand that protecting the environment in the D-M-Z does not run counter to economic development. He says environmental preservation is beneficial to the long-term sustainability of economic development in both North and South Korea. (Signed) NEB/SMN/RAE 12-Jul-2000 12:07 PM EDT (12-Jul-2000 1607 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|