Wednesday, September 28, 2011

South Korea to Turn Demilitarized Zone into a Biosphere Reserve

An Amur leopard is one of several animal species found in an untouched demilitarized zone between North and South Korea
 Recently, South Korea has filed an application with the UNESCO to convert a part of a demilitarized zone between itself and North Korea into a biosphere reserve. Out of 580 UNESCO biosphere reserves worldwide, South Korea currently has four. This zone, which spans 250 kilometers from coast to coast and measures about four kilometers wide, has been in place since 1953. The application aims to 425 square kilometers of the zone closest to South Korea, as well as an extra 2,554 square kilometers of its territory. It has been left alone for more than fifty years, and yet the area is full of land mines. Despite this, the zone has become a sanctuary for many rare species. A statement from the Republic of Korea Ministry of Environment found that 2,716 species live within the zone, many of which are endangered. A survey released in 2010 showed that the species are almost extinct in other parts of South Korea. These include creatures like the Amur leopard cat, the Japanese crane, and the Siberian musk deer. Others include the white-naped crane, the Asiatic black bear, and even the elusive Amur leopard. In addition to that, some scientists suspect there might even be a few Siberian tigers, but no conclusive proof has been found.

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An Asian black bear is also found to make its home in the zone

This, to me, is a very amazing and incredible moment for South Korea. The idea's roots date back to the 1990s when it was first proposed. At that time, scientists feared that any reunification of North and South Korea could lead to problems for wildlife in the zone. In 2005, media mogul Ted Turner proposed turning the zone into a "peace park" and a World Heritage Site. It is hoped that if South Korea is given the UNESCO biosphere designation, it will protect the region under its Wetland Conservation and Cultural Properties Protection acts. In addition to that, it will also revise its Natural Environment Conservation Act to provide funding for the area and promote ecotourism.

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Japanese cranes have also been sighted
 I also hope that South Korea will be given this designation. Because the nation and its northern neighbor have gained notoriety for environmental issues ranging from acid rain, to water and air pollution. A 2003 report by the United Nations revealed a large scale of deforestation, polluted rivers, and poor air quality. Also, North Korea had accepted a shipment of endangered species from Zimbabwe, many of which are put to fight against each other and captured on tape to be sold both to local and foreign consumers. Some had even leaked into South Korea. This is why I firmly believe that both the Koreas should team up together, in order to combat such environmental catastrophes or forever be labeled as places of peril for the global wildlife.

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