The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas could be transformed into an “international peace zone” and even included on a UN list of global cultural heritage, world leaders in the UN General Assembly heard on Tuesday.
The proposal was floated by Moon Jae-in, President of the Republic of Korea, in his address to the annual gathering.
The DMZ separates South Korea, as the country is also known, and its neighbour to the north.
“The DMZ is a colossal green zone that stretches 250 km from east to west, and four km from north to south. Its borders define a tragedy spawned by 70 years of military confrontation, but paradoxically, it has become a pristine ecological treasure trove. It has also become a symbolic space, steeped in history, which embraces both the tragedy of division…as well as the yearning for peace,” Mr. Moon said.
“The DMZ is the common heritage of humankind and its value must be shared with the whole world. Once peace is established between the two Koreas, I will work together with North Korea to inscribe the DMZ as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.”
UNESCO is the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Mr. Moon envisages the buffer zone as a future “peace and cooperation district” where the two countries, and the international community, can research issues surrounding peace, peacebuilding and ecology, for example.
Over the past year, there has been momentum around peace on the Korean Peninsula.
President Moon recalled that both countries withdrew guard posts inside the DMZ.
Furthermore, he said the remains of more than 170 soldiers killed during the Korean War have also been recovered. These include troops from his country but also from the United States, China, France and the British Commonwealth.
This past June, Donald Trump became the first sitting US President to step into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, meeting with North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un: a development welcomed by the UN Secretary-General.
“It was a remarkable step that will go down in the history of peace on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia,” said Mr. Moon. “I hope both leaders will take yet another huge step from there.”
However, he reminded the gathering that although fighting ended in 1953, the Korean War is still very much alive.
“The tragedy of war should never be repeated on the Korean Peninsula. To this end, we must put an end to the longest-running armistice in human history and achieve a complete end to the War,” he said.