Environmental issues in the Korean demilitarized zone (29 May 1997)



For a people who have been divided by a conflict which engaged the attention and interest of the entire world community the prospect of creating in the demilitarized zone which separates the two states into which Korea is still divided into an ecological reserve is an exciting and enlightened one.

Congratulatory remarks by Maurice F. Strong, Chairman, Earth Council, at the International Seminar on the Preservation of Ecosystems in the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) in the Korean Peninsula

Honourable Governor, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Participants,

I am very sorry indeed that I have had to forego the opportunity of being with you in person on this important occasion due to the urgent requirements of my responsibilities for United Nations Reform, which have required me to remain at UN headquarters in New York. But I very much welcome this opportunity of extending my warm greetings to all participants in this very timely and important international seminar on the Preservation of the Ecosystem of the Demilitarized Zone of the Korean Peninsula. And may I also extend my congratulations to Asian-Pacific Environmental NGO in Korea for organizing and hosting this seminar and to the Korean Ministries of Environment and Foreign Affairs and other organizations that are supporting this initiative as sponsors.

It is especially propitious that this seminar is being held in conjunction with the events being hosted by Korea commemorating the 25th anniversary of the first world environment conference, the UN Conference on the Human Environment, held in Stockholm, Sweden, in June 1972, and the fifth anniversary of the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 1992.

The fact that the Republic of Korea was selected as the world focal point for this important milestone on the environmental calendar testifies to the great respect which Korea now commands in the world community and the enthusiastic response to its commitment to leadership in the field of environment and sustainable development. Korea's remarkable performance in transforming itself from a low-income developing country to one of the world's most successful and dynamic industrial economies is one of the great success stories of modem times. But it is immensely encouraging to know that the government and the people of Korea have recognized that your future now depends on your ability to ensure that your continued economic growth is fully responsive to your environmental and social needs -that you make the transition to a sustainable mode of development. This will be essential, I submit, both for the competitiveness of your industry and the quality of life that Koreans will enjoy in the new Millennium.

For a people who have been divided by a conflict which engaged the attention and interest of the entire world community the prospect of creating in the demilitarized zone which separates the two states into which Korea is still divided into an ecological reserve is an exciting and enlightened one. It would ensure the preservation of a unique and rich array of precious ecological resources and transform a zone of conflict into a permanent manifestation of peace. This is an initiative of great promise and importance internationally, as well as to Koreans and it deserves the full support of the international community.

The exceptionally high quality of the distinguished scientists, experts, and officials you have assembled and the extensive range of issues you will be addressing make it clear that this seminar will make a critically important contribution to translating this exciting concept into reality. I look forward to hearing the results of the seminar and to an opportunity of meeting with its leaders and sponsors when I come to Korea next in the near future.

In the meantime, both personally and on behalf of the Earth Council, let me extend my very best wishes for the success of the Conference and of this great project and to assure you of our deep continuing interest and solidarity.

I want to extend to your Advisor, my good friend, Mr. Tongsun Park, my appreciation for his courtesy in conveying this message to you.