Peace, Conservation and Capitalism Within the Korean DMZ: Critiquing the Proposal for a DMZ Peace Park

Conference: The Asian Undergraduate Research Symposium (AURS2021)
Title: Peace, Conservation and Capitalism Within the Korean DMZ: Critiquing the Proposal for a DMZ Peace Park
Stream: Sustainability: Ecology, Energy and the Environment
Presentation Type: Virtual Poster Presentation
Matthew Doohan, Australian National University, Australia


Since the late 1990s, Peace Parks have emerged as a model for managing border regions with histories of conflict, combining the aims of peacemaking and protecting fragile ecological landscapes. Organisations such as DMZ Forum argue that transforming the Korean Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) into a ‘Peace Park’ can both promote inter-Korean peace, and protect unique ecosystems within the DMZ. The proposal for a DMZ Peace Park is rooted in an assumption of political neutrality; however, recent Peace Park literature suggests the opposite. This paper explores why the Peace Park model has become a significant framework for imagining the DMZ’s future, and asks what Peace Park theory can tell us about the potential implications of the DMZ Peace Park proposal. Drawing upon recent contributions to Peace Park theory, Korean media, provincial government policy papers, and scholarly critique, this paper argues that the vision for a DMZ Peace Park is far from politically neutral or benign. The proposal ‘remakes’ meanings and narratives of DMZ in ways that oppose the interpretations of the North Korean government. In this way, a DMZ Peace Park can inflame perennial political disagreements about legitimacy and identity between the two Koreas. Further, the proposal is embedded with developmentalist logic, suggesting that the prima facie environmental objectives of a Peace Park are conditional upon the profit motive. My findings suggest that scholars ought to more closely critique visions of the DMZ’s future and ask: what does ‘peace’ mean to governments, communities, and capital, and whose material interests does ‘peace’ serve?

Virtual Presentation

Virtual Poster Presentation


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