The Viridian Design Movement

Viridian Note 00423: Korean Involuntary Park

Key concepts
Viridian Involuntary Parks, Korean Demilitarized Zone, tigers, Tiger Man
Attention Conservation Notice:
Full of daffy local color, but from a widely known New York publication.


Man, I sure am logging the mileage.

Every fan of spimes should make it a point to read the CASPIAN newsletter.

"Metal Rubber." Really? More or less.

They're literally importing coal to Newcastle.

New York Times, September 5, 02004 Norimitsu Onishi

"Does a Tiger Lurk in the Middle of a Fearful Symmetry?


(((Hey, good one, Mr Headline Man)))

Published: September 5, 2004

"HORWON, South Korea – From atop an observatory hard on the southern limit of the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, Lim Sun Nam peered through binoculars at the cold-war spectacle below. He paid no attention to the barbed wire fences, the guard posts with rifle-toting soldiers, or the propaganda billboards on the northern side exclaiming 'Against America' and 'Prosperity of the People.'

"No, Mr. Lim took in the verdant hills undulating across the 2.5-mile-wide strip of land and the river snaking through it here in one of the DMZ's most scenic points. His eyes searched for the deer, wild pigs and pheasants living in the zone as well as the elusive animal whose existence here he has spent the last seven years trying to prove: the tiger.

"Although Mr. Lim may or may not find the tiger, environmentalists have recognized this area – one of the most enduring symbols of the cold war and one of the most fortified and heavily mined stretches on

earth – as the Korean peninsula's, and possibly East Asia's, most important wildlife refuge. They have been pressing to preserve it but are feeling a special urgency now because of the growing reconciliation between the North and the South.

"The environmentalists fear that a South Korea that puts economic development first and a North Korea that has no environmental movement could together lead to the zone's rapid destruction as a refuge. (((Have they fully considered the benefits of the new Israeli wall?)))

"This natural barrier traverses wetlands, rice paddies, prairies, hills, forests and mountains for more than 150 miles. Enclosed by barbed wire and left virtually untouched since it was created in 1953, the zone has become a haven for animals, birds and plants that are seldom seen elsewhere on the peninsula.

"Migratory birds, including the endangered black-faced spoonbill and the white-naped and red-crowned cranes, fly in and out, oblivious to land barriers. Rare animals like

the Asiatic black bear, the Eurasian lynx, goral antelopes – and maybe even the tiger – make this area their year-round home.

"But these days, thousands of South Koreans pass every week through an eastern corridor to a resort in North Korea; on the western side, a new highway and a railroad linking the two sides have been built. (((Oh, the humanity.)))

"'The DMZ is the last major vestige of Korea's natural heritage,' said Kim Ke Chung, a professor at the Center for BioDiversity Research at Penn State and chairman of the DMZ Forum, an organization based in the United States that is dedicated to preserving the zone. 'It's probably the only good thing to come out of the Korean War and cold war. So we have to preserve this as a nature reserve.' (((How did the Cold War become the "cold war" all of a sudden?)))

"The DMZ Forum recently held a conference in Seoul to gather support for designating the zone a Unesco World Heritage Site, a classification that would curb all development. William B. Shore, secretary of the forum and a former fellow at the Regional Plan Association of New York, said the zone should become a center for eco-tourism as an alternative to turning it into a weekend getaway for residents of Seoul.

"'People are now willing to pay large sums to see wild animals in the proper setting,' Mr. Shore said. 'Eco-tourism would protect the DMZ from becoming the Hamptons of South Korea.' ( ((Perhaps it's possible to transform the Hamptons into a DMZ.)))

"South Korea and North Korea, however, would have to ask for World Heritage status. North Korea has shown no interest in the issue, said Sohn Hak Kyu, governor of Kyonggi Province, which abuts the zone and was host for the conference. A unified peninsula would focus on North Korea's economic development, and prewar landowners could lay claim to pieces of the zone, Mr. Sohn said.

"'There will be strong resistance from North and South Korea to such a designation,' he said.

"Although South Korea has not expressed support for the designation, it has begun recognizing the zone's natural legacy. Early this year, South Korea's National Tourism Organization proposed creating an eco-tourism center here in Chorwon, an area about 60 miles northeast of Seoul and famous for

its bird-watching. Tourists would be permitted just south of the zone in a so-called civilian-controlled area, a heavily militarized zone that includes cordoned-off minefields and roads flanked by antitank defenses.

"Lim Sun Nam believes an elusive tiger or two may live in the uninhabited and unspoiled DMZ. 'The Korean spirit is still alive there,' he says. (((Yeah, the spirit and those landmines.)))

"South Korea built ecologically friendly safeguards into the new road and railroads, with so-called eco-bridges and eco-tunnels to allow animals to cross safely over or under the roads. North Korea, which initially suspected that the crossings served some military

purpose, has not shown any interest in building similar safeguards into its portions of the roads, Mr. Sohn said.

"For some South Koreans, the zone represents something deeper than a natural paradise. It is the only tract of land that has remained intact from before Korea was divided. As a last refuge for species no longer seen elsewhere, but off limits to all but a few Koreans, it represents a spiritual loss to some.

"The tiger symbolizes that loss more than any other animal. Tigers once populated the peninsula and, in traditional culture, were considered holy animals embodying a mountain deity. The tiger's importance in Korean culture was underscored during the 1988 Seoul Olympics, when it was chosen as South Korea's mascot. The last tigers were believed to have been hunted down by Japanese colonial rulers, which adds to the animal's symbolic importance.

"Mr. Lim, who has been searching for the tiger for seven years but has yet to see one, described his quest in a recent visit here.

"'I am searching not only for the tiger, but the spirit and soul of Korea,'
he said. 'Because the DMZ is not polluted – it's preserved – the Korean spirit is still alive there." (((The DMZ may lack pollution, but the entire Pacific Rim is clearly awash with newage.)))

"Mr. Lim, 48, a former television cameraman and documentary filmmaker, has found and videotaped what appeared to be tiger footprints inside the restricted civilian-controlled zone just south of the DMZ. Since doing research on the tiger in the late 1990's, Mr. Lim has devoted his life to his quest. Children call him Tiger Man. He quit his job in 2001 and sold his house. He and his family moved in with his older brother, who supports him but has also pressed him to get a new job. ((("Get a new job, hippie!")))

"Some wildlife experts in South Korea believe that the tiger is extinct and that footprints seen by Mr. Lim belong to wild dogs. Mr. Lim waves away such criticism, saying, 'You won't find tiger footprints on college campuses.' (((Huh?)))

"He went to Siberia to learn how to track tigers and has searched for them across stretches south of the zone, typically combing mountains for footprints during the winter. His goal is to film one. But the futility of the last seven years has sometimes taken its toll, plunging Mr. Lim into bouts of uncertainty that were alleviated only by outside interest in his efforts.

"'One time I was in despair and told the tiger, 'I don't care if you become extinct,'' Mr. Lim said, recalling a fruitless search over several days in the mountain snow. 'I said, 'If you are a spiritual animal, you should help me.' I decided to give up my search for the tiger. But when I started going down the

mountain, I got a call on my mobile phone. It was an invitation to speak at a special conference on the tiger.'" (((At last, a business model.)))

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