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DMZ becomes frontier of hope through marathons, concert
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DMZ becomes frontier of hope through marathons, concert
  • By Kocis
  • 승인 2023.09.02 00:00
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The DMZ Peace Train Music Festival will offer a blend of peace, ecology and outdoor music in Gangwon-do Province in September. (Photo by DMZ Peace Train Music Festival)
The DMZ Peace Train Music Festival will offer a blend of peace, ecology and outdoor music in Gangwon-do Province in September. (Photo by DMZ Peace Train Music Festival)

Once a site for confrontation and division, Korea’s Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) is becoming a place of integration and harmony with events such as the Cheorwon DMZ International Peace Marathon and DMZ Peace Train Rock Festival bringing people together in a spirit of peace in the inter-Korean border provinces of Gangwon-do and Gyeonggi-do.  

According to the head of the Cheorwon DMZ International Peace Marathon, Lee Jong-hwa, “The Cheorwon marathon is a famous historical competition that has been going on for 20 years since 2004.” Well known for its scenic course, the annual running event is trailblazing, given that it is set amid the remnants of war and the vicissitudes of geopolitics but is an expression of hope for a free and peaceful Korean Peninsula.

“It is a competition here in Cheorwon visited by nearly 300,000 Koreans and foreigners so far under the mottos ‘a hope for peaceful unification’ and ‘an opportunity to run the northernmost road,’” Lee said. 

Starting Sunday, September 10 at 9:00 am, the Gangwon-do event offers full and half marathons, 10- and 5-km runs and also caters to peace-loving walkers, who can take a stroll on the roughly 4-km-long Cosmos 10-ri Road instead of running. Applications close August 23. 

Gyeonggi-do Province in collaboration with the Gyeonggi Tourism Organization is also hosting a DMZ marathon as part of the DMZ Open Festival which will run into November to mark the 70th anniversary of the signing of the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement. This marathon takes place on Saturday, October 7 on a course that meanders through the countryside beside the Imjin River in Paju. It includes a half marathon and 10-km race. Applications for the 3,000-spot event, sponsored by the Ministry of Unification and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, are open at the DMZ Peace Marathon website until September 21. The Festival will feature additional programs and performances, including a North Korean food experience center and the DMZ International Music Festival slated for November 4-11 at Goyang Aramnuri Aram Music Hall.

Following the signing of the Armistice, a roughly 250-km-long and 4-km-wide strip of land was marked off across the Korean Peninsula around the 38th parallel. In the 70 years since this buffer between the two Koreas was created, the DMZ has become an isolated ecosystem where endangered species are inadvertently protected from human interference by minefields and guard posts. At last year’s Let’s DMZ Forum, the nation’s leading ecologist, Choe Jae-chun, called the DMZ’s value as a natural habitat and ecosystem “incomparable to anywhere else.”  

According to Lee, the head of the Peace Marathon, the DMZ is a treasure trove of and for wildlife and a unique place that fills humanity with hope. However, the region is still one of the most heavily militarized in the world. “Of course, it's an area where there can be a physical conflict at any time,” said Lee. 

“At the same time, people feel the pain of the once-unified country’s division and hope for and look forward to the chance to run a marathon in North Korea in their lifetime. That's why people run in the DMZ – to be close to where they still can’t go.” 

Cheorwon DMZ International Peace Marathon in 2019 (Photo by the organizers)
Cheorwon DMZ International Peace Marathon in 2019 (Photo by the organizers)
Participants run in the Cheorwon DMZ International Peace Marathon in 2019. (Photo by the organizers)
Participants run in the Cheorwon DMZ International Peace Marathon in 2019. (Photo by the organizers)

Given the realities of Cheorwon’s militarization, many soldiers and veterans participate in the run. Lee’s own son is still serving in the DMZ.  

A view of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) from a guard post in Goseong, Gangwon-do Province, during a tour by the Ministry of National Defense in 2019 (Photo by Joint Press Corps)
A view of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) from a guard post in Goseong, Gangwon-do Province, during a tour by the Ministry of National Defense in 2019 (Photo by Joint Press Corps)

“A lot of things have changed over the last 70 years,” Lee added, “but there are still many reasons why I want to get over the DMZ. The generation that remembers the Korean War is fading now. The Republic of Korea is a country in a state of cease-fire, but young people are not aware of much. Since the run happens in a place with this history, it is a great way to educate the next generation.” 

In the month preceding the race, the much-anticipated film “Road to Boston,” which traces the Korean marathon runners who went to the Boston Marathon after liberation from Japan in 1945, will hit cinemas during the Chuseok holiday in late September, no doubt motivating runners of all abilities. 

Entirely independent from the Cheorwon DMZ International Peace Marathon, Cheorwon-gun County will be hosting the DMZ Peace Train Music Festival in Gangwon-do’s Goseokjeong National Tourist Area about a week earlier. The indie music festival will span two days – Saturday and Sunday, September 2-3 – and feature a diverse lineup of Korean and international acts, including Michael Rother of NEU!. Since 2018, the festival has sought to transcend political, economic and ideological differences and bring humanity together by fostering a sense of peace and harmony through music amid the unique cultural and ecological backdrop of the DMZ.  


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