SEOUL, Oct. 30 (Yonhap) — Unification Minister Lee In-young called Friday for North Korea to cooperate in efforts to turn the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two sides into “experimental space for coexistence.”
Lee made the remarks in an opening speech during an international forum held in the border town of Cherwon to discuss how to develop the world’s most heavily fortified border into a peace zone.
“The South and the North are a single community of life and security,” Lee told the forum. “Now is the time for us to pay attention to the possibility of the DMZ as a platform for cooperation in tackling such issues as infectious diseases, public health and climate change.”
“I believe that once the South and the North join hands, the DMZ could be turned into experimental space of coexistence where the possibility of peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula can be tested in advance,” he added.
The DMZ, about 250 kilometers long and 4 kilometers wide, is one of the world’s most heavily fortified borders, with the rival Koreas technically in a state of conflict as the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed in their summit talks in 2018 to turn the DMZ into a “peace zone” and take practical measures to implement the deal.
In his speech at the U.N. General Assembly session last year, Moon also called for the two Koreas and the international community to work together to that end. Little progress, however, has been made since, amid chilled inter-Korean relations.
“I would like to take this event as a chance to urge North Korea to carry out the agreements reached by their leaders,” the minister said.
Mentioning the killing of a South Korean government official by North Korean soldiers near the western sea border last month, Lee said that the incident serves as a reminder of the fact that such border areas, including the DMZ, should be the starting point in efforts to secure “peaceful coexistence” between the two Koreas.