Toward a Design Competition for a Korean DMZ Peace Park

Kosung, on East Coast near DMZ from the South side. Photo by Dongsei Kim. 2011

Collaboration work with Peter J. Poole (Arctos & Bird) Banff, Canada.
March 2012 - present

Text by Dongsei Kim and Peter J. Poole

The purposes of this brief are: (a) to open conversations with people already engaged in promoting the concept of a peace park on the Korean peninsula; (b) to explore the role of design thinking for expanding the dialogue about a Korean peace park; and (c) to seek recommendations for advisors of an international design competition for a peace park in and around the Korean DMZ.

The concept of a peace park in the demilitarized zone of the Korean Peninsula (Korean DMZ) has developed over the past thirty years from within United Nations organizations, academic circles, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The concept of a DMZ peace park has spread widely, so that observers now note elements of a social movement have emerged in South Korea and internationally. Hence, the park ideal persists, perhaps partly because of the slow progress for peace on the peninsula. Over the past few decades, as peace parks and transfrontier protected areas have become widespread in Africa, North & South America and Europe, a body of knowledge has emerged about management approaches and reasons for success in the formation and management of transfrontier protected areas.

What is new, and why now?
The current initiative aims to create an international design competition for a regional landscape vision for a peace park in the Korean DMZ. A design competition will produce many expressions of human intent for a place. The options emerging from design competitions can be bridges that transcend ideologies or politics.This is one approach, of many, for encouraging detailed conversations about the concept of the DMZ peace park.

This is a good time for several reasons.
First, much attention by world superpowers will be focused on the Korean peninsula during the next few years of the new Kim regime in the North led by the young, less known Kim Jong Un.
Second, multilateral institutions currently have strong interests in the Korean peninsula under the leadership of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.
Third, there has been much effort spent on the Korean peace park in the past two decades, within multilateral agencies, multilateral and bilateral diplomatic negotiations, provincial governments, and academics, artists, and musicians. We believe that the work that has been done in the past two decades provides a strong foundation for a design competition now. Design teams, through the competition process, will push the boundaries of our thinking and provoke conversations about the status quo of the DMZ.
Fourth, the experience of design competitions has become strong, in Korea, China, and in international circles involving landscape planning and ecology. South Korea, for example, has an active professional design community engaged in architectural and landscape design competitions.
Fifth, the concept of large landscape connectivity has emerged as a key part of conservation planning for protected areas and transfrontier regions. In the past two decades, large landscape connectivity initiatives have evolved in North America, Southern Africa, Europe & Australia. There is a broad base of knowledge now in conservation biology and park planning allowing national governments and international agencies to better promote large landscape connectivity.
Sixth, as China has opened in the past two decades, there is a potential to engage leading designers in China in large scale habitat connectivity projects in NE Asia, on the various land, maritime & air borders of China, Russia, Mongolia & Korea & Japan. Through the Harvard GSD Design Studio in China, we have begun these discussions. Our interest in ecological processes in border regions causes us to ask how borders serve the interests of humans and other species.
Finally, we believe nature is beautiful and worth protecting, and share that view with many proponents. Looking ahead, one hundred years from now, we ask ourselves: "what would be fabulous for this region, and for the human experience on the Korean peninsula?"

How, given the obstacles, might a design competition occur?
We would like advice from various persons who have engaged in discussions of a Korean peace park over the past few decades. We will seek advice from people within governments, international organizations, NGOs & academia in the six months from September 2012 - February 2013.

We have five core questions:
1. What structure and group of advisors in Asia & internationally will help guide and promote this design competition?
2. What funding model will assist this?
3.Who might comprise a competition lead and members of a competition jury?
4. How might we identify and engage potential partners in North Korea from fields of design, natural science, land management, and communication?
5. How might we effectively share the process and results of a competition?