CNN founder Turner wants nature park for Koreas’ DMZ
By Jon Herskovitz
DORASAN, South Korea (Reuters) – Media mogul and conservationist Ted Turner wants to turn the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone that divides the Korean peninsula into a peace park if the two Koreas become unified.
The 248-km (154-mile) long and 4-km (2.5-mile) wide DMZ stretches from one end of the peninsula to the other.
It has been a no man’s land for over 50 years and because of that, the band of land has also become a wildlife sanctuary that is the home to some of the world’s rarest birds as well as a variety of plant and animal life.
“This is a project worthy of doing,” Turner said on Wednesday at Dorasan Station, the last station in South Korea that government officials say will serve as the rail link with North Korea once tracks are connected and political hurdles allowing train traffic have been cleared.
CNN founder Turner had just finished a two-day trip to North Korea where he advocated building the park and he also broached the idea with South Korean officials, organizers of the park said.
Turner pledged to make an unspecified financial contribution to the park and organizers said it is their idea to have the two Koreas lead the way in laying plans for establishing the long and narrow nature preserve.
The DMZ is home to several threatened and rare species of animal and plant life including the red-crown crane, a staple of Asian art, and the white-naped crane. The two are among the world’s most endangered birds.
The two Koreas have well over 1 million troops who face each other across the DMZ, but there has been virtually no human activity in almost all of the DMZ since it was established by the armistice that ended the 1950-1953 Korean War.
The two Koreas are technically still at war because a peace treaty has not been reached.
Parts of the DMZ were once littered with corpses due to the heavy fighting, but without human activity for more than half a century, nature has returned in abundance. In addition, the DMZ crosses mountains, prairies, swamps, lakes and tidal marshes, giving the area a large amount of biological diversity.
According to figures compiled by environmentalists for South Korea’s Gyeonggi Province, there are about 2,900 different plant species in the DMZ as well as about 70 different types of mammals and 320 different types of birds.
In addition, there are tens of thousands of landmines and pieces of unexploded ordinance in the DMZ because of the heavy fighting during the war. There are also periodic explosions when animals such as a deer stumble into mine fields.
Turner is one of the largest private landholders in the United States and has been an outspoken advocate of conservation.
Turner said he hopes for peace on the peninsula and for the park to come to life once the two Koreas sign a peace treaty and are united.
“You can’t have a peace park without peace,” Turner said.