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Government begins planning to establish DMZ peace park

Seoul has launched a government-wide effort to draw up plans for establishing an international park within the Demilitarized Zone, as suggested by President Park Geun-hye during her recent visit to the U.S.

“The concerned ministries are discussing measures for implementing the plans to establish a peace park,” an official said.

“Details regarding measures that will be proposed in talks with North Korea are being drawn up.”

Seoul’s multi-ministry negotiation group is expected to include the Ministry of Unification and the Ministry of National Defense that will engage Pyongyang. In addition, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport have been involved to draw up plans for the park.

The government also plans to involve non-governmental organizations that have called for the DMZ to be utilized for peaceful purposes in the project.

The DMZ is a 4-kilometer-wide strip of land that runs across the Korean Peninsula separating the two countries.

In addressing the U.S. Congress on Wednesday, Park announced her hopes to establish an international park that “sends a message of peace to all humanity,” adding that the DMZ had the “potential to engender global peace.”

She added that a global effort must be made to ensure that the demilitarized zone “live up to its name, a zone that strengthens peace not undermines it.”

Although the government is expected to build up momentum for the plans from this week, observers say that realizing the president’s plans is likely to be difficult due to heightened tension on the peninsula.

North Korea has cut off all communication with Seoul, and its actions have resulted in the temporary shut-down of the Gaeseong industrial complex, the last active inter-Korean economic project.

In addition, the precedent of similar plans having amounted to little adds doubt to the outlook for the DMZ park plans.

During the Roh Moo-hyun administration, when inter-Korean relations were far more amiable than they are now, Seoul and Pyongyang agreed to establish a “peace zone” in the West Sea.

However, the plans have not only failed to be realized, but the region has become central to inter-Korean tensions since Pyongyang’s attack on the South Korean warship Cheonan and shelling of Yeonpyeong island in 2010.

By Choi He-suk  (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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