Competitors Get First-Hand Look at Koreas Divide
By Lee Hyo-won
The Mr World 2010 contest is nearing its end, with the finale scheduled for Saturday in Incheon. So far contestants have warmed up to Korean culture, visiting museums and temples and tasting local dishes, and they visited Wednesday one of the most fortified places on Earth ― the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas.
The Korean War (1950-53) came to halt with an armistice agreement and the peninsula was divided in half by a four-kilometer-wide de facto border. It is a living remnant of the Cold War and one of the most popular tourist destinations in South Korea.
Only 20 out of the 74 Mr World representatives were allowed to visit ``the truce village’’ of Panmunjeom near Paju, Gyeonggi Province. The armistice was signed there, and the liaison offices for both Koreas are located there.
The rest of the men visited Dorasan Pyeonghwa-Park (Mt. Dora Peace Park) and Dora Observatory. The observatory allowed them to peer into civilian life in North Korea. The farmlands and Propaganda Village as well as the streets of Gaeseong and Kim Il-sung’s bronze statue can be seen with a telescope.
The group also stopped by ``The Third Tunnel,’’ located 435 meters from the southern demarcation line of the DMZ. The tunnel, about 2 meters in height and 1,635 meters long, was built by North Korea for a potential invasion of the South. It was discovered in June 1978.
``It was interesting; I could tell there was a lot of tension between North and South Korea,’’ said France’s Mohammed Al Maiman.
On Tuesday, the fourth and final round of the preliminaries took place in the form of a charity fashion show.
Brazil’s Jonas Sulzbach, who was chosen as the top model at the fashion show, which featured Andre Kim couture, and Korea’s Yoo Ji-kwang, who won the talent show last week with his singing, won fast-tracks to the semi-finals. They will be among the final 15 in the finale.
Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
The DMZ is a four-kilometer-wide strip dividing North and South Korea along the 38th parallel. This no-man’s land has literally been left almost untouched by man for over half a century.
And so, while the area is associated with war, with numerous landmines still scattered about, it is also home to rare flora and fauna. Many endangered animals including those unique to Korea and protected by the Environmental Protection Agency can be found, such as musk deer and raccoon dogs.
Not surprisingly, the DMZ has come to symbolize history and universal themes of war and peace, and has inspired many works of fiction.
The action thriller ``The Guard Post’’ features a mysterious infectious disease that soldiers posted in the DMZ area suffer from after coming into contact with the local wild life.
The blockbuster film ``Joint Security Area’’ by Park Chan-wook is set in Panmunjeom. It centers around dramatic tensions between North and South Korean soldiers that result in a shooting incident.
An international documentary film festival was launched last year in the area, The DMZ Korean International Documentary Festival (DMZ Docs), in the spirit of peace and storytelling.