The DMZ is 2.4 by 155 miles. It and the contiguous Civilian Control Zone (CCZ) in the Republic of Korea--3-12 miles across the peninsula--contain five rivers and many ecosystem types, including forests, mountains, wetlands, prairies, bogs and estuaries. There are over 1,100 plant species; 50 mammal species, including Asiatic Black Bear, leopard, lynx, sheep and possibly tiger; hundreds of bird species, many of which, according to IUCN, are endangered, including Black-faced Spoonbill, Red-crowned and White-napped Cranes and Black Vulture; and over 80 fish species, 18 being endemic. These species represent 67% of Korea’s fauna. Hundreds of bird species migrate through the DMZ going to and from Mongolia, China, Russia, Vietnam, Japan, the Philippines and Australia
The future of sustainable Korea depends on a clean environment and ecologically sustainable use of the land, which provides environmental security and sustainable development for a projected future population of over one hundred million people. The demilitarized zone (DMZ) is the linchpin of pan-Korean nature conservation. The DMZ, a 4- km wide strip of beautiful land running 250 km across the entire Korean peninsula, has separated the two Koreas and controlled military hostilities between them since 1953. The DMZ became a unique natural sanctuary for biodiversity and wildlife and a showcase of natural heritage and is an important resource for Korea's nature conservation. This land must be preserved for future generations. It will provide the foundation for sustainable development, cultural and spiritual advancement and environmental security.
After a formal ceasefire with the Korean War armistice, the DMZ corridor was naturally revived from devastation, its forests recovered and wild habitats rebuilt, resulting in a renewal of life without human interference. Fallow land has returned to thick prairie and shrubby land in the western section. Rich green forests adorn the magnificent landscape of the eastern mountain ranges. With them, endangered and rare plants and animal species, including Asiatic black bear, leopard, Eurasian lynx, Goral sheep, and perhaps Amur tiger, have rebuilt their populations. A great number of migratory birds, including endangered species such as the White-naped and Red-crowned cranes and the Black-faced spoonbill have made their home in these habitats. The land devastated by war has become a rare sanctuary for endangered native species and been transformed into the most important in-situ reserve for Korea's natural heritage, biodiversity and landscapes, including many species that no longer exist anywhere else on the peninsula.
Symbolizing the tragedy of War, Korea's DMZ is a sacred resting place for millions of innocent compatriots, foreign friends, and soldiers of both sides who died for freedom and peace. Having two distinct socio-economic systems for the last half of the 20th Century, the two independent Koreas, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK), have created two different people with separate ideologies and cultures. They now have diverse perspectives on life in a rapidly changing world and yet desire to be united and mutually benefited by building a prosperous and peaceful future. Korean people in the south have worked hard for the last forty years and now enjoy a democratic society with a free consumer economy, attaining a position as the 12th largest economic power in the world. South Korea has already embarked on helping to improve the lives of their northern compatriots. The DMZ has been transformed into a place of juxtaposition for people of the two Koreas for reconciliation and concordance and as a gateway to unification and peace. The DMZ corridor with rich biodiversity and landscapes opens a unique opportunity to recreate "Keum-Su-Gang-San", meaning "land of embroidered mountains and river", for Korea's sustainable development and peace.
The DMZ that contains a complete array of native biodiversity on the peninsula already has become a unique nature reserve. This historic estate must remain a landmark nature reserve in perpetuity, as it is an important national heritage site for Koreans everywhere. The DMZ is the center of what can become pan-Korean nature conservation and a tribute to the Korean's patriotic pride, the "Keum-Su-Gang-San". The DMZ also can serve as an ecological laboratory to study nature's resilience and revival, human ecology and ecosystem sustainability. Simply put, there is no place comparable to the DMZ on the Korean peninsula and in the world - this land must remain intact and protected for the future of Korea.
There is a call from around the world for designating the DMZ corridor as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The DMZ is not only a national heritage site for biodiversity and culture but also a world heritage site for humanity. The UNESCO process provides an opportunity for the two Koreas, the DPRK and ROK, to join the global conservation movement by creating a unique World Heritage Site. The conference provides a platform for embarking on this movement and charts the strategies for designating the DMZ as a World Heritage.