Gyeonggi province is the leading negotiator of South Korea when it comes to Peace in Korean peninsula. The province holds various events and implements policies for the peace of North and South.
Located in northwestern region of South Korea and bordering North Korea, Gyeonggi-do stands in a strategic location. The province, which has long suffered from the effects of national division, is contributing substantially to exchange and cooperation projects with the North.
The Gyeonggi Provincial Government understands the importance of peace for prosperity throughout the Korean Peninsula. Accordingly, the Gyeonggi provincial administration is undertaking various events and implementing peace policies as a stepping stones towards a peaceful future.
20th Anniversary of June 15 South-North Joint Declaration
On May 28, 2020, Gyeonggi Province announced that various events are underway to foster an atmosphere of peace on the Korean Peninsula, including a talk show and a peace concert to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the June 15 South-North Joint Declaration.
|Traditional singers at the Peace Talk show in Banswol Art Hall, Pocheon|
The Peace Talk Show commemorating the 20th anniversary of the South-North Joint Declaration was held on June 10, 2020, at Banwol Art Hall in Pocheon City. The purpose of the show was to provide members of the public and policymakers with an opportunity share opinions on the peace policies of Gyeonggi Province and Pocheon City. Gyeonggi Province Vice Governor for Peace Lee Jae-kang, former Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok, and Pocheon City Mayor Park Yoon-kook participated in the event to share their passion for peace.
This year, the Peace Music Concert also showcased the mission of “walking together from Gyeonggi to Pyeongyang”. To this end, famous K-pop stars and traditional musicians will perform for peace on the Korean Peninsula during a concert that will be held at the KBS Hall in Yeouido, Seoul, on June 14.
In addition, Gyeonggi Province, along with the Ministry of Unification and the Seoul Metropolitan Government, will hold a 15-day public event under the theme of “Creating Peace on the Korean Peninsula” from June 1 to 15 to promote related programs based on “empathy”, “hope”, and “communication”. These programs include, respectively, a TV show, a walking tour, and an anniversary ceremony for the June 15 South-North Joint Declaration.
Gyeonggi-do Vice-governor for Peace
Although armed conflict has ceased, the Korean War has not officially ended. Since the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement in 1953, there have been hopes and speculation about peace and reunification. The Gyeonggi Province Vice Governor for Peace holds a unique local government office, serving a necessary role in bringing the two sides together. The current Vice Governor for Peace, Lee Jae-kang, was appointed in July 2018.
Role & Responsibilities of the Vice Governor for Peace
Gyeonggi Province Governor created the office of the Vice Governor for Peace as part of the province’s efforts to improve South-North cooperation. As one of the northern-most provinces of South Korea, Gyeonggi-do borders North Korea and occupies a strategic central location for South-North relations because it connects Seoul to the North Korean border.
The Vice Governor for Peace works to create new cooperation strategies so as to help the central and local governments of the two Koreas to work together. This is especially important in matters pertaining to the Joint Special Economic Zones and the two Kaesong Industrial Complexes. The Vice Governor focuses on creating a foundation for cooperation initiatives that are practical and feasible, such as the expansion of Gyeongui and Gyeongwon lines to the border.
Many officials believe that exchange and cooperation with North Korea are impossible due to UN sanctions. However, according to the Vice Governor for Peace, this is not necessarily so; Gyeonggi-do has been pursuing plans to enhance exchange and understanding between the two sides. The Vice Governor believes that, unlike ten years ago, North Korea now values national gains over ideological beliefs.
DMZ; a Legacy of War & a Pathway to Peace
The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is a strip of land stretching from the east coast to the west coast of the Korean Peninsula that is governed by specific international rules regarding military activities. It was established upon the cessation of hostilities of the Korean War in 1953. South Korea and North Korea agreed to withdraw their military forces from a 2 kilometer-wide zone on their respective sides of the border.
|Heavily guarded yet, beautiful scenery (DMZ)|
Contrary to what its name may imply, the Korean DMZ is actually one of the most heavily guarded and militarized places in the world. That does not, however, mean that the area is a barren and oppressive place inaccessible to the public. Throughout its history, many efforts have been made to utilize the DMZ for peaceful purposes. After the signing of the Inter-Korean Basic Agreement in 1991, these efforts started looking more feasible. Some of the peaceful endeavors pursued include the Geumgangsan tour, the Gyeongui Line, the Donghae Line, Kaesong Industrial Complex, and more.
Nowadays, the DMZ has become a popular destination for those seeking to learn more about the Korean War and its after-effects. In addition, the control of human activity in the region has resulted in a thriving natural environment. The estuary of the Hangang River is now a neutral area where, to date, civilian access has been limited and military patrols minimized. As a result, the estuary and the nearby islands have become important resting and breeding grounds for migratory birds.
Located just north of Seoul, Paju City is one of the main destinations for DMZ tours. The city, which has suffered heavily from South-North tensions, has been reborn stronger and now brims with art, culture, and history. It also is the gateway to Panmunjom, also known as the Joint Security Area or Truce Village, which is renowned for its iconic blue buildings.
The DMZ Peace Train leaves from Seoul Station and takes visitors through various DMZ sections in Paju City including the Dorasan Peace Park, Dora Observatory (where the visitors can look into North Korean territory), and the notorious 3rd Tunnel.
The 3rd Tunnel (a.k.a. the 3rd Tunnel of Aggression) is one of four known tunnels running under the border. It was discovered in 1978 after an underground explosion; South Korea then intercepted the tunnel, which is believed to have been built to carry a surprise attack on Seoul. It’s estimated that 30,000 soldiers could have moved through the tunnel per hour.
The DMZ Peace Trail
After an agreement was reached between the South and North, the two Koreas decided to increase civilian visits to the DMZ. There are now three courses, known as Peace Trails, that allow a limited number of visitors to hike along sections of the DMZ.
One of these trails was created following the removal of a guard post in the Paju City area. Walking past the facilities and memorials offers visitors a glimpse into the destruction brought about by the war and subsequent tensions. The trail follows the path of South Korean military patrols. Only a limited number of visitors are allowed to hike in the area each day; they are accompanied by South Korean soldiers to ensure their safety. The trail stretches for 21 kilometers from Imjingak Station to the Unification Observatory.
Gyeonggi-do's Efforts & Plans
|Gyeonggi province puts its best effort to communicate with North Korea|
Inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation are important issues for Gyeonggi Province, which has jurisdiction over border areas such as Panmunjom and the Kaesong Industrial Complex, as well as Gimpo City, Paju City, Yangju City, and Yeoncheon County.
Gyeonggi Province is devising plans and proposing activities that contribute to peace in the area. The current Vice Governor for Peace is one of a handful of experts on North Korean relations who has traveled frequently to North Korea on official occasions.
The Governor of Gyeonggi Province and the Vice Governor for Peace has been following up on events and activities such as the Peace Forum, the DMZ Marathon from Paju to the North Korean city of Kaesong, tours to Kaesong, and more. They are also optimistic about the possibility of building a jointly administered Peace Park as military activities in the area are scaled back.
Gyeonggi Province anticipates possible future economic cooperation when UN sanctions on North Korea are eased. During the 2018 Peace Forum, the Vice Governor for Peace spoke with North Korean officials about smart farming technologies that could be beneficial to North Korea. Economic cooperation stands to benefit both South and North, and could potentially lead to more peaceful future relations.