South Korea pushes for DMZ eco peace park

Maggie Hiufu Wong, CNNUpdated 28th January 2015
Home to five rivers and several mountains, the DMZ has become a thriving natural habitat for thousands of plant and animal species.
(CNN) — It's been over six decades since the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) was established, creating a buffer zone between North and South Korea that's often referred to as the world's most tense border.
But remaining relatively untouched for all those years has had an unintended effect on this 250-kilometer long, four kilometer wide no-man's land.
Home to five rivers and several mountains, it's become a thriving natural habitat for thousands of plant and animal species.
And if South Korea has its way, the DMZ will eventually be transformed into an ecology peace park.
The proposal is high on Seoul's agenda at this week's Ramsar Convention, an international meeting on wetlands taking place in Switzerland.
"A Korean delegation to the standing committee meeting of the Ramsar Convention will brief international organization officials about the DMZ peace park plan to seek cooperation," said an official of the Ministry of Unification, the government office responsible for inter-Korean relations, in a Korea Times report.
"It aims to broaden international support for the project," added the official.
North Korea not on board
Apart from the thousands of soldiers stationed at the DMZ, the heavily fortified border is home to more than 1,200 varieties of plants and thousands of animal species -- including endangered wildlife like the Asiatic Black Bear and Amur leopard.
It's not the first time the idea to turn the DMZ into an ecology park has been raised.
The South Korean government first introduced the plan in 2013.
It brought it up again in an official statement in 2014, saying the park could become a symbol of peace between the two Koreas.
The South's Ministry of Unification even listed it as one of its new year plans for 2014.
So why enlist the international community's assistance?
"As the southern part of DMZ is under the control of the United Nations Command, it is important for Seoul to gain global support for the DMZ park plan," reports the Korea Times.
But the biggest challenge will be to persuade North Korea to get on board with the plan.
Pyongyang has repeatedly rejected the idea, dismissing it as an attempt to make money off tourists.