Tourists walk along a trail adjacent to the Demilitarized Zone, named DMZ Peace Trail, in Goseong, Gangwon Province. (Yonhap)
The South Korean government announced Wednesday that it has decided to inject 14 billion won ($11.38 million) to develop a trail adjacent to the Demilitarized Zone called the DMZ Peace Trail.
The 248-kilometer-long DMZ, established in 1953, divides the Korean Peninsula roughly in half.
“We will make the DMZ Peace Trail more prosperous by turning it into a place where people can experience the precious values of peace and also making it a place where foreigners would like to visit,” Vice Interior Minister Yoon Jong-in said in a statement.
The hiking trail project started in 2019 as part of the government’s efforts to give the local economy a boost. Once it is complete, the trail is expected to be 526 kilometers long. It is a joint project involving seven ministries, including those responsible for the interior, culture and defense, and is scheduled for completion by 2022.
Currently, three sections of the hiking trail are open to the public and an additional seven are due to open this year.
The first section opened in April last year in the eastern coastal region of Goseong, and the second opened in June in the inland border town of Cheorwon. The western section in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, opened to the public in August.
The government said the money will be used primarily to maintain the trails and build facilities such as coffee shops, restaurants and accommodations for hikers, as well as to open up new sections along the trail. It also said additional surveillance cameras will be installed in the area for reasons of military security.
The Korean government said it will consider the environment when conducting the project -- for example, by using the existing trails as much as possible rather than building new roads.
For the new facilities, the government said it will mainly renovate existing buildings such as disused schools, town halls and military facilities. It currently aims to create a total of 10 such facilities by the end of this year.
Also, the government said it plans to roll out an integrated brand identity for the hiking trail so it can more effectively promote the DMZ Peace Trail.
By Song Seung-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org)