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Vice unification minister visits DMZ village, vows support for UNESCO listing

A map for the joint research on cultural heritage inside the DMZ. (Cultural Heritage Administration)
A map for the joint research on cultural heritage inside the DMZ. (Cultural Heritage Administration)

Vice Unification Minister Suh Ho on Tuesday visited a village on the South Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone, part of Seoul’s efforts to have the heavily fortified region between the two Koreas recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Getting the DMZ inscribed on the UNESCO list is one of many projects Seoul is pursuing to engage Pyongyang, amid an impasse in US-led efforts to denuclearize the regime. Others involve the reconnection of cross-border railways and authorizing individual tourism to the North.

Suh visited Daeseong-dong in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, the only civilian village located within the DMZ and home to some 200 residents, with officials from the Cultural Heritage Administration. The CHA, in collaboration with the provincial governments of Gyeonggi Province and Gangwon Province, is in charge of conducting comprehensive research on archaeological relics and flora and fauna at the site.

Suh was briefed about the agency’s plans for the village, as well as other areas in the DMZ. A 55-member expert panel organized by CHA is planning to conduct research on 40 sites, including the Joint Security Area within the truce village of Panmunjom, for a year.

The ministry said it will actively support the research project in cooperation with the Defense Ministry, other relevant government ministries and the United Nations Command.

“The DMZ, as the Korean Peninsula’s east-west ecological axis and a battlefield of the Korean War, is an area with great historic, ecological and cultural value. Starting with the Daeseong-dong village, we will conduct a comprehensive study and push ahead with UNESCO world heritage listing,” said Cho Hye-sil, the ministry’s deputy spokesperson.

Last year at the United Nations General Assembly, South Korean President Moon Jae-in had floated the idea of turning a stretch of the no-man’s land separating the two Koreas into a global peace zone. The DMZ, a green zone that is roughly 250 kilometers long and 4 kilometers wide, was established under the armistice agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

Despite the uncertainties surrounding inter-Korean relations, and the North’s apparent lack of response, Seoul is pushing ahead with long-stalled cross-border projects.

On Wednesday, Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul is planning to visit the Han River estuary along the western part of the inter-Korean border. The visit is a follow-up to the joint inspection conducted in 2018 in an effort to open the heavily guarded waterway for joint use by the two Koreas.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)
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