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Silver Lining in Korea’s DMZ? Wildlife is Thriving

February 26, 2023

SEOUL – According to a report by NBC News , Google has unveiled new street view images this week to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the armistice between North and South Korea. These images reveal a thriving ecosystem of over 6,000 wildlife species in the demilitarized zone (DMZ), despite its inhospitable terrain and deadly landmines.

Greece was among the 17 UN member states who contributed troops to support South Korea during the Korean War. Greece’s military provided highly appreciated expertise in mountain-terrain fighting having just had a civil war against communist guerillas in their own country. Additionally Greece’s medical units provided much-needed care to both soldiers and civilians alike. Greece’s forces suffered with 186 fatalities and 566 wounded casualties over the course of the war.

The ceremony inaugurating the new Monument of Fallen Greeks in Yeoju Yeongwol Park in Seoul was a deeply emotional event, led by Deputy Minister of National Defense Nikolaos Hardalias on Thursday, September 8th, 2022. (Press Release, Ministry of Defense/Eurokinissi)

The DMZ spans the entire Korean peninsula and boasts a diverse range of environments, including rocky mountains, rivers, and tidal swamps. Away from the danger of landmines, otters and endangered Manchurian trout swim freely in the Imjin River, and animals such as long-tailed mountain goats thrive in the rocky terrain of the Taebaek Mountains.

The virtual tours offered by Google street view also showcase the untouched volcanic landscapes of the Hantan River Gorge, complete with high granite walls and sandy beaches, as well as the grassy high moors of Yongneup, a haven for wetland flora. Following peace talks between North and South Korea in 2018, ecologists were hopeful that the two states might work together to protect the wildlife habitats in the narrow strip of land between them.

South Korea has taken steps to promote peace and environmental conservation in the DMZ, including the opening of “peace trail” hiking routes in 2019 that traversed the south side of the zone. However, after 70 years, the two Koreas remain officially at war, with no peace treaty signed to end the hostilities. In recent weeks, tensions have escalated due to North Korea’s nuclear development and weapons testing, with the country setting a record in 2022 with over 70 ballistic missiles fired. North Korea claims that its activities are meant to serve as a warning to the US, but some experts worry that the tests are aimed at strengthening the country’s nuclear capabilities and increasing its bargaining power in future negotiations.

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