Design for Conflict Resolution at the Korean DMZ
North and South Korea have experienced a turbulent political relationship since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Since then, borders have been closed, and because it has been untouched, the Demilitarized Zone (dividing the two countries) has become one of the most ecologically rich areas in the world. While natural resources are scarce throughout North Korea; important tourism industries have emerged around the demilitarized zone from both sides.
How to produce a dynamic design scheme that can benefit the local populations, protect the ecological biodiversity, and provide sustainable agricultural solutions, while considering and adapting to shifting political climate?
The project emerged as part of a think tank effort to envision and design environmental conflict resolution schemes that could address the political instability of the region, while harnessing (and protecting) the rich ecological resources of the area, and bringing value back to the local people living on both sides of the border. We specifically chose to work with two villages located inside the DMZ: Daesong-Dong and Kijong-Dong.
We collaborated with North and South Korean environmentalists, diplomats and designers to create an environmental proposal that could benefit two of the local villages within the region. This is what the process looked like:
We first conducted an extensive site analysis, mapping out existing situation, through an ecological, agricultural, political, and military lens. Then conducted an in-depth research study in conjunction with Korean environmentalists to better understand the rich ecological resources available in the area, as well as the opportunities to integrate traditional methods of farming to produce more sustainable solutions for the two agricultural villages.
We developed an ecological landscape proposal that provides agricultural and environmental resources for the two Korean villages that exist inside the DMZ.
The project proposes a solution that considers environmental, cultural, agricultural, and military factors, adaptive to inter-state, as well as local/village conditions. It proposes a ‘shared’ agricultural landscape, that is both productive and environmentally sustainable. The scheme will adapt to fluctuating political and environmental conditions: which range from peaceful and neutral inter-state relations to a potential escalating conflict. Although the success of the project depends largely upon the larger political relationships of the two countries, it serves as an aspirational vision to demonstrate the rich resources and opportunities available for mutual benefit, environmentally, and politically across both sides of the border.
Our team ultimately presented the design proposal and findings to North and South Korean diplomats at the DMZ Forum, an international gathering aimed to bring peace and a shared vision for the future of the Koreas. The project was also featured alongside other design proposals on the National Geographic Blog.