DMZ peace park a hopeful Korean destination for children

In my career as a writer – and before that as a management consultant – I saw some pretty strange proposals. But, nothing that crossed my desk compared to what Jonathan Lee has put together. The 13-year-old was born in South Korea and lives in the United States, and he’s going on a most unusual journey. The enterprising teenager was scheduled to fly Thursday night to Pyongyang to pitch an idea to Kim Jong-il … yes, that Kim Jong-il. The one who rules the reclusive North Korea with no tolerance for dissent.

Lee hopes to secure support for his idea to create a children’s peace forest in the heavily mined Demilitarized Zone. He expects to meet with officials in North Korea, to whom he will proffer his idea, which will include “fruit and chestnut trees … and where children can plan,” according to the Huffington Post. Most likely, armed guards will continue to stand on either side of the Zone with weapons ready to be used if necessary.

The DMZ is not a peaceful place, of course. Though the Korean War’s fighting stopped in 1953, peace was never formally attained, and a cease-fire has been in place for close to six decades. The United States doesn’t have diplomatic ties to North Korea, and any interaction between the two governments usually takes place through the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang.

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Lee says he knows the visit is supposed to be safe, but he’s a bit nervous, given that North Korea is still a communist country. His mother, Melissa, adds, “”We know, it sounds crazy.” She continues, “When he first said, ‘I think we need to go to North Korea,’ I looked at my husband and said, ‘What?’ It was a radical idea.”

Lee has already worked on laying the groundwork south of the DMZ:

Reports by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency say Jonathan met former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung three years ago and suggested planting chestnut trees on the Korean peninsula and that he went to see the then-ailing former president again last year.

In a letter Jonathan hopes to give to Kim Jong Il, he wrote that Kim Dae-jung talked with him about his “sunshine policy” of peaceful coexistence with the North.

So, if l works out, there will be a new destination for the family – in neither country! Doubtless, the likelihood of Lee’s dream being realized is pretty low, but let’s give him credit for a valiant effort that is leading to some wild places.

[Via Foreign Policy, photo by UNC - CFC - USFK via Flickr]