By Kim Hyo-jin
Seoul will seek international support to create an ecological park in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) during a conference in Switzerland this week.
"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 a unification ministry official Monday. "It aims to broaden international support for the project."
The 1971 Ramsar Convention is a pioneering intergovernmental treaty for conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. The 48th standing committee meeting to oversee convention affairs is taking place in Gland, Switzerland, from Jan. 26-30.
Officials of the unification and environmental ministries dispatched to the meeting are scheduled to meet the convention's Secretary General Christopher Briggs, and Director General of the World Wide Fund for Nature Marco Lambertini during the five-day visit.
"If we have a chance to encounter the North Korean delegation, we may be able to explain our DMZ park plan to them," said the official. Pyongyang is expected to send a delegation to the international gathering as an observer nation.
The government has sought global support for the project since last year, the ministry official said.
"We also appealed to foreign officials about the plan during the conference of the parties at the Convention on Biological Diversity in Pyeongchang last October, and they gave a positive response to the idea."
Cheong Wa Dae came up with the ambitious project to build a park in the DMZ in 2013 to ease military tensions there.
The DMZ was created as a buffer zone between South and North Korea based on the 1953 Korean War Armistice. The 250-kilometer-long, 4-kilometer-wide zone is the most fortified area in the world with 70 percent of troops from both Koreas stationed nearby.
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.
During an annual policy report earlier this month, the Unification Ministry reiterated the government's hope of building a park there in cooperation with the United Nations and neighboring nations.
North Korea has consistently rejected such proposals, accusing South Korea of attempting to make money from foreign tourists.