Sunday, November 25, 2007

Whoddathunk it?

DMZ=Demilitarized Zone? Think again. In this vast swath of land between North and South Korea, Mother Nature has reclaimed her space: fields are now prairies and marshes have become home to thousands of white cranes, herons and ducks from northern China and Siberia -- and city-boy soldiers become ardent nature lovers after a transformative stint at the Seungri guard post. Created in 1953, the DMZ stretches 250 km along the 38th parallel, 2 km deep on each side of the line. After fifty-four years free from man’s intervention, the DMZ has become a sanctuary for dozens of species, including tigers and leopards, in danger of disappearing elsewhere. One lone scientist (under heavy military escort), Kwi-gon Kim, director of the Environment Dept. at Seoul University, has been able to penetrate this wonderland of biodiversity. Since 1996, he’s been dodging the million land mines still buried here, seeing something new each time he comes. Irony of ironies, this zone created to prevent conflict is now itself a source of it, as environmentalists fight to have the DMZ designated a protected area while local authorities and citizens, unable to attract business – or brides – dream of development.
(Title credit: Mary McCarthy, The Group, 1966 movie with all-star cast.)

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