Peace in Korea?
The war is over.
Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-In — who are the leaders of North Korea and South Korea respectively — met in a historic summit at the border truce village of Panmunjom and pledged to work together to achieve complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and eliminate the risk of war, according to numerous sources.
Peace in Korea?
Kim Jong Un even reportedly technically crossed the border and visited South Korea for the first time in his life — which is the first time a leader of North Korea has ever performed that action — and Moon Jae-In crossed the border into North Korea before the two men sat down south of the border for their summit.
If this agreement comes to fruition, this could mean the end of a divided Korean peninsula and the elimination of the Korean Demilitarized Zone and Joint Security Area, which I visited back in October of 2014 and still have more trip reports to write. The atmosphere at the border was tense at best, with the possibility of one wrong move potentially leading to the launch of another violent conflict.
As I wrote in this article pertaining to 13 of the most fascinating international borders in the world, the Korean Demilitarized Zone — which stretches for roughly 155 miles — serves as a buffer approximately 2.5 miles wide between North Korea and South Korea. After its establishment 64 years ago, this stretch of no man’s land has eventually transformed into an undeveloped nature reserve which reportedly contains gorals, wild boar, roe deer, endangered cranes and even rare Siberian tigers; and both countries have cooperated to protect the rare wildlife which has flourished here. I personally have not seen any of the aforementioned wildlife.
Imagine being able to visit the currently forbidden land of North Korea more freely than in decades — just by crossing a border from South Korea that potentially may not exist anymore in the distant future — and learning about a culture which has largely been isolated from the rest of the world by interacting with the people of that culture. Perhaps that railroad — which sits idle despite spanning the two countries — will finally be in operation. The travel possibilities are significant.
A reduced risk of nuclear war and military action — “elimination” may be too optimistic at this time — is also possible as the result of a signed peace treaty.
As with China, Cuba and other “last frontiers”, business interests — especially airlines and lodging companies — could see significant growth opportunities as a result; and free trade could also be a possibility.
Although wondering of which airline alliance Air Koryo will become a member may be a bit preliminary, all sorts of possibilities come to mind as the result of achieving peace on the Korean peninsula — but time will tell as to whether or not the events which occurred earlier today were genuine or purely ceremonial.
I am not being overly optimistic, as myriad impediments need to be overcome and resolved to achieve true lasting peace — basic trust issues being one of them — but I remember when I visited the Korean Demilitarized Zone and Joint Security Area, I kept thinking how silly, ridiculous and childish the whole situation seemed to me…
…and yet, a peace treaty signing may actually occur later this year — and if that happens, it would be the first time North Korea and South Korea would be at peace since an armistice was signed back in 1953.
It may seem as unlikely as the Swedish group ABBA releasing two new songs; but despite some healthy skepticism, I am hopeful that it happens…
All photographs ©2014 by Brian Cohen.