South Korea opens hiking trails on world’s most heavily armed border

Travelers looking to experience the abundance of wildlife that’s thriving on the Korean Peninsula’s Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) – oft described as the world’s most heavily armed border – have a new option to consider.

The United Nations Command (UNC) has approved phase one of South Korea’s “Peace Trail” project, which includes plans to open three routes along the DMZ.

The first approved trail is located in Goseong, in Gangwaon Province on the east side of the Korean Peninsula. Visitors begin their hike at the Unification Observatory and trek past barbed-wire fences before arriving at the Mount Kumgang Observatory.

The DMZ is a 160-mile-long no-man’s land about 30 miles north of Seoul that was established in the 1953 Korean War Armistice Agreement. For over six decades, this 250-kilometer long, four kilometer-wide area has been closed off from human interference, barred with fences and landmines all across the region.

Thanks to the restrictions, the area became an unintended refuge for all sorts of endangered species, from migratory birds to wild mammals, such as red-crowned cranes, white-naped cranes, mandarin ducks, musk deer, mountain goats and more. There are even reports of critically endangered Amur leopard sightings inside the DMZ.

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