[Homestead] NYTimes.com Article: Does a Tiger Lurk in the Middle of a Fearful Symmetry?

tvoivozd at roanoke.infi.net tvoivozd at roanoke.infi.net
Sun Sep 5 10:42:43 EDT 2004

The article below from NYTimes.com 
has been sent to you by tvoivozd at roanoke.infi.net.

People and wildlife are imcompatible, remove the people, even in a limited area of a 2.5 miles X 150 mile corridor and wildlife thrives as a millions of years old gene pool.  The reason why the last 52221000f U.S. climax forest should remain roadless, contrary to G.W. Bush desire and intent.

tvoivozd at roanoke.infi.net

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Does a Tiger Lurk in the Middle of a Fearful Symmetry?

September 5, 2004


CHORWON, South Korea - From atop an observatory hard on the
southern limit of the demilitarized zone between North and
South Korea, Lim Sun Nam peered through binoculars at the
cold-war spectacle below. He paid no attention to the
barbed wire fences, the guard posts with rifle-toting
soldiers, or the propaganda billboards on the northern side
exclaiming "Against America" and "Prosperity of the

No, Mr. Lim took in the verdant hills undulating across the
2.5-mile-wide strip of land and the river snaking through
it here in one of the DMZ's most scenic points. His eyes
searched for the deer, wild pigs and pheasants living in
the zone as well as the elusive animal whose existence here
he has spent the last seven years trying to prove: the

Although Mr. Lim may or may not find the tiger,
environmentalists have recognized this area - one of the
most enduring symbols of the cold war and one of the most
fortified and heavily mined stretches on earth - as the
Korean peninsula's, and possibly East Asia's, most
important wildlife refuge. They have been pressing to
preserve it but are feeling a special urgency now because
of the growing reconciliation between the North and the

The environmentalists fear that a South Korea that puts
economic development first and a North Korea that has no
environmental movement could together lead to the zone's
rapid destruction as a refuge. 

This natural barrier traverses wetlands, rice paddies,
prairies, hills, forests and mountains for more than 150
miles. Enclosed by barbed wire and left virtually untouched
since it was created in 1953, the zone has become a haven
for animals, birds and plants that are seldom seen
elsewhere on the peninsula. 

Migratory birds, including the endangered black-faced
spoonbill and the white-naped and red-crowned cranes, fly
in and out, oblivious to land barriers. Rare animals like
the Asiatic black bear, the Eurasian lynx, goral antelopes
- and maybe even the tiger - make this area their
year-round home. 

But these days, thousands of South Koreans pass every week
through an eastern corridor to a resort in North Korea; on
the western side, a new highway and a railroad linking the
two sides have been built. 

"The DMZ is the last major vestige of Korea's natural
heritage," said Kim Ke Chung, a professor at the Center for
BioDiversity Research at Penn State and chairman of the DMZ
Forum, an organization based in the United States that is
dedicated to preserving the zone. "It's probably the only
good thing to come out of the Korean War and cold war. So
we have to preserve this as a nature reserve." 

The DMZ Forum recently held a conference in Seoul to gather
support for designating the zone a Unesco World Heritage
Site, a classification that would curb all development.
William B. Shore, secretary of the forum and a former
fellow at the Regional Plan Association of New York, said
the zone should become a center for eco-tourism as an
alternative to turning it into a weekend getaway for
residents of Seoul. 

"People are now willing to pay large sums to see wild
animals in the proper setting," Mr. Shore said.
"Eco-tourism would protect the DMZ from becoming the
Hamptons of South Korea." 

South Korea and North Korea, however, would have to ask for
World Heritage status. North Korea has shown no interest in
the issue, said Sohn Hak Kyu, governor of Kyonggi Province,
which abuts the zone and was host for the conference. A
unified peninsula would focus on North Korea's economic
development, and prewar landowners could lay claim to
pieces of the zone, Mr. Sohn said. 

"There will be strong resistance from North and South Korea
to such a designation," he said. 

Although South Korea has not expressed support for the
designation, it has begun recognizing the zone's natural
legacy. Early this year, South Korea's National Tourism
Organization proposed creating an eco-tourism center here
in Chorwon, an area about 60 miles northeast of Seoul and
famous for its bird-watching. Tourists would be permitted
just south of the zone in a so-called civilian-controlled
area, a heavily militarized zone that includes cordoned-off
minefields and roads flanked by antitank defenses. 

South Korea built ecologically friendly safeguards into the
new road and railroads, with so-called eco-bridges and
eco-tunnels to allow animals to cross safely over or under
the roads. North Korea, which initially suspected that the
crossings served some military purpose, has not shown any
interest in building similar safeguards into its portions
of the roads, Mr. Sohn said. 

For some South Koreans, the zone represents something
deeper than a natural paradise. It is the only tract of
land that has remained intact from before Korea was
divided. As a last refuge for species no longer seen
elsewhere, but off limits to all but a few Koreans, it
represents a spiritual loss to some. 

The tiger symbolizes that loss more than any other animal.
Tigers once populated the peninsula and, in traditional
culture, were considered holy animals embodying a mountain
deity. The tiger's importance in Korean culture was
underscored during the 1988 Seoul Olympics, when it was
chosen as South Korea's mascot. The last tigers were
believed to have been hunted down by Japanese colonial
rulers, which adds to the animal's symbolic importance. 

Mr. Lim, who has been searching for the tiger for seven
years but has yet to see one, described his quest in a
recent visit here. 

"I am searching not only for the tiger, but the spirit and
soul of Korea,'' he said. "Because the DMZ is not polluted
- it's preserved - the Korean spirit is still alive there."

Mr. Lim, 48, a former television cameraman and documentary
filmmaker, has found and videotaped what appeared to be
tiger footprints inside the restricted civilian-controlled
zone just south of the DMZ. Since doing research on the
tiger in the late 1990's, Mr. Lim has devoted his life to
his quest. Children call him Tiger Man. He quit his job in
2001 and sold his house. He and his family moved in with
his older brother, who supports him but has also pressed
him to get a new job. 

Some wildlife experts in South Korea believe that the tiger
is extinct and that footprints seen by Mr. Lim belong to
wild dogs. Mr. Lim waves away such criticism, saying, "You
won't find tiger footprints on college campuses." 

He went to Siberia to learn how to track tigers and has
searched for them across stretches south of the zone,
typically combing mountains for footprints during the
winter. His goal is to film one. But the futility of the
last seven years has sometimes taken its toll, plunging Mr.
Lim into bouts of uncertainty that were alleviated only by
outside interest in his efforts. 

"One time I was in despair and told the tiger, 'I don't
care if you become extinct,' " Mr. Lim said, recalling a
fruitless search over several days in the mountain snow. "I
said, 'If you are a spiritual animal, you should help me.'
I decided to give up my search for the tiger. But when I
started going down the mountain, I got a call on my mobile
phone. It was an invitation to speak at a special
conference on the tiger." 



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