Skip to main content

Teen's peace mission to North Korea

By the CNN Wire Staff
Click to play
U.S. teen's peace mission to North Korea
  • A teen makes a rare visit to North Korea to pitch idea of "peace forest"
  • He said he was told a peace treaty would have be signed first
  • Jonathan Lee met officials, but was declined a meeting with leader Kim Jong Il

Beijing, China (CNN) -- An American teenager who hopes to establish a "children's peace forest" in North Korea's demilitarized zone says the longstanding hostilities in the region would have to end before his project could take hold.

Jonathan Lee, 13, of Ridgeland, Mississippi, spoke to reporters in Beijing Thursday after returning from a visit to North Korea. He said he was told he couldn't plant his forest since North Korea is still at war with South Korea and the United States.

"A peace treaty would first have to be signed between North Korea and America before a children's peace forest could be made," he explained.

Jonathan said he was "a little disappointed" at the possible setback, but vowed to "keep trying." He was heartened by the interest of North Korean officials in his idea.

"It's like planting a seed, a seed of reunification maybe," he said.

Jonathan said he got his idea when he studied North Korea in school. He envisions a place where kids from both countries can meet and play.

"The children of these countries have never been able to meet or interact with each other and that made me sad. So I started researching more about North Korea and I came up with the idea of a children's peace forest," he said.

He said his experience in North Korea, where he visited for eight days with his parents, was gratifying. Such a visit, of Americans to North Korea, is rare.

"Actually I was really kind of scared at first but once I got there I was kind of relieved because I felt in my experience very safe and I was treated very well," he said.

He said he met with North Korean officials who liked his idea but he never got a chance to meet with leader Kim Jong Il.

"They (the officials) seemed really interested in my children's peace forest and they were, like, really nice about it."

Lee said he is focused on environmental issues, and he already has an idea for the motto of the children's park: "Above conflict, above borders, above ideology."

"It's all about giving hope to the people and children around the world," he said. "I want them maybe to, like, help save the environment too, like doing little things -- like recycling, turning off lightbulbs or computers when they're done using them."

The boy's website is

CNN's Emily Chang contributed to this report