By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – South Korea proposed Tuesday turning the heavily militarized zone that divides it from North Korea into an "international peace zone" to guarantee peace on the peninsula.
President Moon Jae-in laid out his vision for the DMZ in remarks before world leaders convening for the the UN General Assembly in New York.
“Its borders define a tragedy spawned by 70 years of military confrontation, but paradoxically it has become a pristine ecological treasure trove,” Moon said in translated remarks.
“It has also become a symbolic space steeped in history which embraces both the tragedy of division as embodied by the joint security area, guard posts and barbed wire fences, as well as the yearning for peace,” he said. “The DMZ is the common heritage of human kind and its value must be shared with the whole world.”
The DMZ has split the Koreas for 66 years following the signing of an armistice that brought hostilities on the Korean Peninsula to a halt in 1953.
Moon said once peace between Seoul and Pyongyang is established he would work to have the DMZ, which runs for 155 miles (250 kilometers) from east to west and is 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) wide, designated a UNESCO world heritage site.
If the "international peace zone" were to be established "the peninsula will evolve into a bridging nation that connects the continent and the ocean, and facilitates peace and security,” Moon said.
"The establishment of an international peace zone will provide an institutional and realistic guarantee to North Korean security. At the same time, South Korea will also be able to gain permanent peace,” he added.
There are hundreds of thousands of anti-personnel mines estimated to be in the area, and Moon said it would take South Korea 15 years to remove them if it acted alone. But the time would be greatly accelerated by international assistance, he said.