By Jung Sung-ki, Shim Hyun-chul
Avestige of the fratricidal 1950-53 Korean War, the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is a strip of land dividing the Korean Peninsula and serves as a buffer zone between South and North Korea.
The DMZ cuts the peninsula roughly in half, crossing the 38th parallel on an angle, with the west of the zone lying south of the parallel and the east end lying north of it. The 250-kilometer-long, 4-kilometer-wide zone is the world’s most heavily fortified border.
The Armistice Agreement signed by the U.S.-led United Nations Command, China and North Korea on July 27, 1953, established the DMZ along the approximate line of ground contact between the opposing forces at the time the truce ended the Korean War.
The Military Demarcation Line (MDL) runs down the center of the DMZ and indicates where the front was when the agreement was signed. Since the armistice accord has never been followed by a peace treaty, the two Koreas are still technically at war.
The DMZ has seen numerous incursions by the North Koreans, although the reclusive state never acknowledges direct responsibility for any of their provocations.
The heavily militarized border, however, is a ready-made nature reserve containing the last remnants of untouched Korean geography.
During the past half century, the DMZ is and continues to be a deadly place for civilians, making habitation impossible. This isolation along the DMZ has created an involuntary park and is now recognized as one of the most well-preserved areas of temperate habitat in the world.
The DMZ also owes its varied biodiversity to its geography which crosses mountains, prairies, swamps, lakes and tidal marshes. Environmentalists hope that by the time reunification takes place, the former DMZ will be conserved as a wildlife refuge.