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Revitalising life in the border areas
THE divisions caused by the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) have also affected the human inhabitants of the area and they have proven their resilience by embracing their circumstances and coming out stronger while holding on to their cultural heritage.
Under the South Korean government's development plan for the border areas, Pyeonghwa Nurigil, which symbolises the world's only remaining divided territory, will be created to stretch a total of 551 km by 2020.
It will be an eco-friendly road consisting of non-paved roads, existing roads, and abandoned roads, as well as military operations roads. The full length of the road will be established as the border-area-specific road that symbolises peace, security, the ecosystem, and history.
The pathway has already been partially established in 10 cities and counties from Ganghwa to Goseong, symbolising the individual area-specific themes of nature, the ecosystem, history, culture, and security.
This has been taken advantage of to highlight the area's cultural heritage. Ganghwa, which once served as the temporary capital of the Goryeo Dynasty during the Mongolian invasion period, boasts many historical heritage sites.
In other places such as Paju, one can get a view of the Gaeseong Industrial Complex in North Korea, while Yeoncheon, which boasts the longest stretch of the Pyeonghwa Nurigil Road, features the amazing Hantangang River.
Other attractions include taking part in festivals such as the summer Marsh Snail Festival and the winter Salmon Trout Festival in Hwacheon.
From Yanggu, which stages diverse sports matches round the year, to Inje, which offers splendid views of Naeseorak Mountain, and to Goseong, where you can view Geumgangsan Mountain in North Korea on a clear day and walk along the East Sea coastline, Pyeonghwa Nurigil offers border-area-specific travel packages.
Specific themed activities include Walking Pyeonghwa Nurigil, dedicated to the wish for the unification of Korea; the Peace Unification Marathon, dedicated to the memory of the pain of the divided Korea; and the Pyeonghwa Nurigil Bike Ride along the DMZ.
The Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs has also designated the area to be part of its ecological peace village programme to promote the border area's ecosystems and long-preserved history and cultures.
The programme aims to develop tourist and income resources for its residential villages, to promote the profile of the region, and to ensure the region's economic development and the improvement of the residents' income and provide jobs.
For example, villages such as Dawn Jindeung Village in Goseong, Gangwon Province, have yellow soil fields which are good for green tea and wild flower cultivation.
Products include Hwangto (red clay in Korean) rice, oyster mushrooms, and wild grapes. Nearby tourist attractions include Dowon reservoir and Dowon valley. The village also offers pretty sights including Sinseonbong Peak, the last peak of Geumgangsan Mountain.
The unique experiential programmes with red clay include red clay mudpack, making soap with mud and playing with mud. Visiting the green tea and wildflower cultivation area, at the "Samgut grill" you may enjoy grilled potatoes and corn harvested by hand on the hot stone is also provided. Fishing for mud fishes, catching ducks and making animal dolls with pine cones are also interesting experiences that this village offers.
The Crane Peace Eco Village in Cheorwon Gangwon is a farming village. It has some security tour attractions such as the memorial tower of the Baengmagoji Battle, Woljeong-ri Station, Labor Party Headquarters and Cheoruisamgak (iron triangle) Observatory.
The village is in the clean zone designated by the Ministry of Environment and is the home of Cheorwon Odae rice. Unique attractions are the trademark organic Odae rice, Baengmagoji oyster mushrooms, Baengmagoji cucumber, Baengmagoji barrenwort and Baengmagoji honey.
The village also runs experience programmes for visitors to witness the rice production process and visitors can also join the "Land Mine Search" experience tour, which walks them through the history of recovering the land for cultivation from the wasteland of war, a tent experience and a military experience.
The Hyangdowon Forest Healing Village in Goseong, Gangwon Province, is billed as a healing town that can remedy people's mind and body problems. It specialises in the production of natural, healthy foods such as Song-i mushroom, a medicinal herb.
"Hyangdowon" means "the house of the aromatic peach tree" in Korean. The Forest Healing Village was coined as the place where the house of the aromatic peach tree (Hyangdowon) meets the green forest.
Hyangdowon has great scenery, being surrounded by Baekdudaegan, Sinseonbong Peak of Mount Geumgang and Mount Seorak National Park, and its forest exudes fragrant natural smells.
The final themed village is Kim Yu-jeong Literature Village in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province. Kim Yu-jeong Literature Village reconstructs the birthplace of the famous author in modern Korean literature and has an exhibition hall to display his life and art. There is a statue of him and some sculptures symbolising the famous BomBom's story. The exhibition hall also displays exhibits of 1930s Korean literature.
The village also organises annual events such as the Kim Yu-jeong Literature festival, Kim Yu-jeong memorial service, Kim Yu-jeong literary awards, juvenile literature festival, Kim Yu-jeong literature camp and Kim Yu-jeong essay contest.
The villages in the civilian control zone past the southern limit line, however, face a slightly tougher prospects.
A product of the region's history, they now number 427. Even less accessible and economically weak than the average South Korean rural villages, they need help to reshape their future and have the prospect of a better life.
Of the various villages in the civilian control zone, several villages, including Hyeon 3-ri in Haean-myeon, Yanggu-gun; Mandae-ri in Haean-myeon, Yanggu-gun; Igil-ri in Dongsong-eup, Cheorwon-gun; and Saengchang-ri in Gimhwa-eup, Cheorwon-gun have some attractions.