World: South Korea opens hiking trails on DMZ - - PressFrom - US
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WorldSouth Korea opens hiking trails on DMZ

05:50  29 april  2019
05:50  29 april  2019 Source:   cnn.com

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South Korea has announced it will create a series of hiking trails inside the DMZ The government of South Korea on Wednesday approved a budget to create the trails as part of an inter- Korean agreement made in September 2018 that would find ways to to transform the DMZ into a zone of peace.

The Republic of Korea is South Korea 's official name. The tour program is widely expected to launch, on a trial basis, on April 27 at the Goseong course to mark the "(The peace trail ) will join the other 13 existing UNC-approved DMZ educational sites as a location for inter- Korean exchanges and learning

South Korea opens hiking trails on DMZ© courtesy Kim Seung-ho

Travelers looking to experience the abundance of wildlife that's thriving on the Korean Peninsula's Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) -- oft described as the world's most heavily armed border -- have a new option to consider.

The United Nations Command (UNC) has approved phase one of South Korea's "Peace Trail" project, which includes plans to open three routes along the DMZ.

The first approved trail is located in Goseong, in Gangwaon Province on the east side of the Korean Peninsula.

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PYEONGTAEK, South Korea , April 19 (UPI) -- Tourists may soon be able to hike on " DMZ Peace Trails " into the demilitarized zone that separates The peace trails are slated to be opened in three counties near the inter- Korean border: Goseong-gun and Cheorwon-gun in Gangwon Province and

The United Nations Command plans to give a green light "soon" to South Korea 's plan to open hiking trails involving the Demilitarized Zone that Earlier this month, the South Korean government announced its plan to open to the public the so-called DMZ Peace Trails in three areas near the

A Goseong tour program launched on April 27 to mark the first anniversary of the Panmunjom Declaration signed by President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to South Korean media.

Visitors begin their hike at the Unification Observatory and trek past barbed-wire fences before arriving at the Mount Kumgang Observatory.

"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," said Gen. Robert Abrams, leader of the UNC, in a statement.

"The ROK military has worked extremely long hours to ensure the success of this very important initiative, while assuring visitors their safety remains paramount."

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The Korean Demilitarized Zone is a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula. It is established by the provisions of the Korean Armistice Agreement to serve as a buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea .

South Korea will open to the public three hiking trails leading to the Demilitarized Zone ( DMZ ) separating the two Koreas starting late this month as part of efforts to have visitors experience inter- Korean peace and the security situation on the Korean Peninsula, government officials said

An unexpected haven for wildlife

The DMZ is a 160-mile-long no-man's land about 30 miles north of Seoul that was established in the 1953 Korean War Armistice Agreement.

For over six decades, this 250-kilometer long, four kilometer-wide area has been closed off from human interference, barred with fences and landmines all across the region.

Thanks to the restrictions, the area became an unintended refuge for all sorts of endangered species, from migratory birds to wild mammals, such as red-crowned cranes, white-naped cranes, mandarin ducks, musk deer, mountain goats and more.

South Korea opens hiking trails on DMZ© courtesy Kim Seung-ho

There are even reports of critically endangered Amur leopard sightings inside the DMZ.

The National Institute of Ecology of South Korea says there are about 6,000 different species of flora and fauna living inside the DMZ.

Winged residents of the DMZ

"If you were to do an experiment on how new species could be restored when the Earth has gone to ruins, the DMZ would be the best place," says Kim Seung-ho, head of the DMZ Ecology Research Institute.

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The South Korean government on Wednesday announced a plan to build hiking trails in the demilitarized zone ( DMZ ) on its border with North Korea , part of a larger The initial plan to open all three paths to the public had to be restricted to the eastern trail on Wednesday due to safety concerns.

Three hiking trails are opening in the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea in an attempt to convert the DMZ into a symbol of peace. If you’re tired of hiking mundane forest trails in the state park near your house, this new hike could be the perfect way to shake up your routine.

Established in 2004 by Kim, the institute conducts studies of the area and consults with government departments to help them find ways to better preserve the environment.

Kim says he has been exploring restricted areas of the DMZ every weekend for nearly 20 years, occasionally taking fellow researchers and curious wildlife enthusiasts. He says it took him a decade to learn the roads and to know where to find the zone's various inhabitants.

"Then the next 10 years were spent trying to really understand those areas and why those animals are there and at what time of the year certain plants bloom," says Kim.

The ecologist is particularly interested in the rare migratory birds that travel from Siberia to winter in the DMZ's warmer wetlands, such as endangered red-crowned cranes and vulnerable white-naped cranes.

The World Wide Fund for Nature describes the DMZ as "a critical stopping-off point during the annual migration of these birds from breeding grounds in northeastern China and southeastern Russia."

When it comes to mammals, species such as water deer (a native species known for its vampire-like fangs) and leopard cats can be spotted prowling the empty fields that abut barbed-wire fences

Kim says he's particularly fond of the water deer.

"They are one of the very ancient, original animal species that have not evolved much at all genetically," says Kim. "They often appear in ancient murals."

A race to save the DMZ

Many voices in both North Korea and South Korea and international environmental organizations have been calling for the conservation of the DMZ for decades.

However the process hasn't been easy as it requires both North Korea and South Korea to come together.

"One of the most agonizing questions for me is how North and South Korea can come together and utilize the DMZ as a tool of reconciliation," says Kim.

"I want to safeguard the biological resources of the DMZ as a tool to heal the wounds of separation."

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