DMZ water coming to a Korean grocery store near you

With all the bottled water you’ll find on grocery store shelves these days, any new player absolutely has to have a gimmick. There are just too many brands on the market. So, a company really does need to go the extra mile to stand out. That’s probably why “DMZ 2km” is getting some media love.

DMZ 2km is drawn from a plant in the southern half of the Korean peninsula’s Demilitarized Zone, the 4 km border area that has split North Korea from South Korea for more than 50 years. On land, there is razor wire – and plenty of landmines. Soldiers walk patrols, and there’s sometimes gunfire. Underneath all this is a spring that ultimately feeds the plastic bottles that consumers can buy for 600 won (50 cents) a pop.

The water bottle is adorned with a bird, which is representative of the wildlife that now lives in the DMZ, which hasn’t had much human activity in half a century. More than 2,900 different plant species are estimated to live there, along with 70 mammals and 320 bird types.

Lee Sang-hyo, spokesman for Lotte Chilsung Beverage, tells Reuters, “We decided on water from the DMZ because it’s different, and the environment there is untouched, so many people thinks it’s clean.” Fortunately, he continues, “Getting the water is not dangerous at all. We worked it all out with the military.”

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[Photo by Constantin B. via Flickr]

Afghanistan wants you, but you might want to wait

A Tourist Information Center was just erected in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan valley. Customer service lessons are in progress – already making the region friendlier than most airlines – but it may take some time before Afghanistan is ready for regular visits. After all, seven U.S. soldiers lost their lives in the war there yesterday. If you think Afghanistan is ready for western tourists, you are out of your mind. Even if the fighting doesn’t stop you, look out for landmines and hand grenade fishing.

In the Bamiyan region, which is not where the recent fighting involving U.S. soldiers took place, the locals are eager to transform their province into a destination for tourists interested in history. At present, 20 people are receiving customer service training to convey the marks of the past on this region to any guests who may be interested.

And, it might actually be working.

This year, more than 400 foreigners did visit the region (likely not including those in uniform), with airport and hotel reservations up more than 100 percent from 180 for the same period in 2008. If these sites are cleared of landmines by October, as expected, the draw could be even greater. Fortunately, there will be a pizza place ready to serve when the rush comes.

Puppets Teach Afghan Kids About Landmines

PuppetHere’s an interesting read from Indian culture blog, Sepia Mutiny, on the instruction of landmines through puppetry in a culturally sensitive film. The puppets are apart of a mission from the No Strings organization to save lives and teach Afghan children about the dangers of landmines. Apparently some 60 Afghans are killed or injured a month by mines and unexploded ordnance around the country. Sad, sad, sad. They go much more into detail at Sepia Mutiny than I’ll venture here, but I should say that the idea, while clever, is also bone-chilling to me. I’m trying to imagine the days when I would listen to a puppet over an adult and then I try to imagine if that puppet were telling me about landmines and minefields and how to go about avoiding them. (Shudders.) However, the kids seem to like the films, as one 11-year-old girl, who watched the first screening in Kabul said, “…I learned that you should stay away from fields that have red stones. There are mines there. I didn’t know that before.”

What a world we live in…