Affirming conflict and identity in the Korean peace park (DMZ) proposals
AbstractAccording to their advocates, peace parks represent a real and symbolic hope for peace and reconciliation. Peace parks both create a buffer and a “bridge” for cooperation to generate peace. The South Korean government and elite-led green NGOs are placing the DMZ military buffer zone as a “soft power” peace park instrument for peace between the two Korea’s. The paper argues that the conventional approaches to explaining the Korean DMZ peace park initiatives/proposals fail to address the underlying national identity questions and narratives. These conventional approaches can potentially reinforce conditions for inter-Korean hostility. This is because inter-Korean hostility is based on ongoing contestations from each Korea over what counts as the historically authentic and unified Korean heritage/identity. Contests are also based upon which of the Korea’s has the legitimate right to monopolise these master-narratives of what counts as genuine Korean identity. Further investigations of the practices and processes of (South) Korean identity construction through inter-cultural tensions between the two Korea’s need to be addressed before a peace park as concept and policy can move away from the initiatives that potentially reinforce these contested identity constructions.
Keywords: Peace park, identity, Korea, security, heritage
Iain Watson is currently Associate Professor at Ajou University, South Korea. Having taught at the United Nations Peace University in South Korea, he gained a Ph.D in International Relations from Newcastle University, UK.