(ATTN: RECASTS throughout with comments by vice culture minister; CHANGES photo and headline)
SEOUL, Sept. 20 (Yonhap) — South Korea on Thursday launched a council to boost tourism near the heavily fortified border with North Korea amid a growing detente on the divided peninsula.
The move came a day after South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang and produced a deal on a wide range of issues meant to ease military tensions and boost ties.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un also agreed to permanently dismantle the North’s main long-range missile engine testing facility and the missile launch pad, and announced his intention to permanently shutter the main Yongbyon nuclear complex in return for an unspecified U.S. concession.
The summit gave fresh momentum to South Korean moves to boost tourism near the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas.
On Thursday, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Korea Tourism Organization signed an agreement with 13 local authorities near the DMZ to try to develop the areas into peace tourism sites.
The participating parties, headed by Vice Culture Minister Roh Tae-Kang, vowed to establish a system to vitalize areas near the DMZ as tourist attractions and jointly create new tourism content.
“A lot of agreements were made during the latest summit, and looking at their bottom line, it seems an era of DMZ’s peace tourism will begin,” Roh said. “Collaboration with local governments is more important than any other time to vitalize peace tourism.”
The proposed plan only covers the areas south of the DMZ.
The buffer zone — which runs for 2 kilometers on either side of the Military Demarcation Line — is a 259-kilometer strip of rugged no-man’s land stretching from coast to coast, strewn with land mines and barbed wire.
On Wednesday, South and North Korea also signed a military deal to each withdraw 11 guard posts from the Joint Security Area in the DMZ on a trial basis by the end of this year.
Members of a council for transforming the heavily guarded demilitarized zone that separates South and North Korea into a hub for peace tourism pose for a photo during an inauguration ceremony in Seoul on Sept. 20, 2018. (Yonhap)