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Songs of Harmony resonate from DMZ

최종 수정일: 2021년 1월 7일

The Lindenbaum Festival Orchestra and the U.S. National Children's Chorus perform together during the 2019 Lindenbaum Festival held at an old military building which used to be a bowling alley for soldiers in Camp Greaves in Paju, northern Gyeonggi Province, July 13. Located near the Demilitarized Zone, Camp Greaves had served as a base for the 506th U.S. Second Infantry Division for about 50 years after the Korean Armistice Agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War, before being returned to the South Korean government in 2007. Courtesy of Lindenbaum Organization

PAJU ― The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), a 250-kilometer-long and 4-kilometer-wide area which used to be one of the world's most heavily fortified borders, has now become a symbolic place for peace efforts.

Although military tension sometimes heightens according to the political situation, the South Korean government is also pushing forward its many peace projects at the DMZ, centering on tourism and cultural projects.

Many cultural events like music festivals and movie screenings are also taking place in the DMZ as part of such efforts.

The Lindenbaum Music Festival which presents an orchestra performance is one of the special cultural experiences taking place at a very symbolic place ― an old U.S. military building of Camp Greaves near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in the border area.

Located about two kilometers from the Southern Limit Line (SLL), Camp Greaves in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, used to be a camp base for the 506th U.S. Second Infantry Division for about 50 years after the Korean Armistice Agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

Since the United States Forces Korea (USFK) returned the base to the South Korean government in 2007, it has been transformed into a cultural platform offering an experience of crossing the Civilian Control Line for events like orchestral and choral performances, movie screenings, art exhibitions and education programs for young people.

On July 13, the Lindenbaum Festival Orchestra, launched by South Korean violinist Won Hyung-joon in 2009, held the third edition of the orchestral music festival at the camp near the DMZ. This year's "One Harmony Art Festival" included choral performances by the U.S. National Children's Chorus with accompaniment by the Lindenbaum Festival Orchestra and a screening of "The Other Side of the Mountain" filmed in North Korea by Korean-American director Joon Bai ― presented by the German non-profit Cinema for Peace Foundation.

Won, who has been running the event to send a message of "harmony" between the two Koreas, said presenting the orchestra performance at Camp Greaves means a lot as it is the nearest place to North Korea for South Korean people to enjoy the music of harmony.

"The essence of the Lindenbaum Festival near the DMZ is about delivering our sincerity to the people in North Korea," Won said in a recent interview with The Korea Times.

He dreams of organizing an inter-Korean joint orchestra someday, so that the two Koreas will meet through music, which can overcome the barriers of language and ideology.

"What makes the situation between the two Koreas peculiar is that we are still in the state of armistice, and the Korean War has not ended. There have been too many incidents that involve ideological conflicts," Won said.

"When it is hard to discuss inter-Korean exchanges in politics, music could be the very first step because it possesses the universal ideals of harmony and reconciliation."

Won said although holding inter-Korean events is especially difficult when military tension is high on the Korean Peninsula, he hopes the inter-Korean joint orchestra he dreams of will be realized in the near future.

Won came a step closer to his dream in May, when he shared a stage with a North Korean soprano named Kim Song-mi at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center in China.

The event was even more dramatic as it took place on May 12, only three days after North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles on May 9.

"When it involves the inter-Korean relationship, organizing cultural exchanges could be even more complicated than for other countries that are at war with each other," Won said. "This is because our two countries are in a more peculiar situation under the armistice agreement due to the National Security Law and ideological conflicts still being big hurdles even for cultural events."

He said now that he overcame one hurdle by initiating the project, he hopes he could engage more young people to join such projects through the music festival, delivering a message of inter-Korean harmony through the power of music.

DMZ: bridgehead for peace efforts

PANMUNJEOM ― The transformation of the once heavily fortified border area into a cultural platform was thanks to the peace efforts in politics. The DMZ is a symbolic place for many diplomatic events which continue to live on despite political disputes and military tensions.

On July 27, two days after the North's another launch of two SRBMs, the United Nations Command (UNC) held a ceremony at the Joint Security Area (JSA) in the DMZ to commemorate the 66th anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

Delivering a speech at Freedom House in the South Korean side of the JSA, UNC commander Gen. Robert Abrams highlighted the transformation in inter-Korean relations as well as U.S.-North Korean relations over the past year.

"As we stand here at the Freedom House, we recognized the Korean Peninsula has changed over the past year. Today, we've witnessed a significant and palpable reduction in tension across the DMZ where the space for diplomacy has been created," Abrams said.

"Now, here in the Joint Security Area, we are here without weapons for the first time since 1976," he said, noting the transformation of the tense area into a symbol of peace.

Last October, military authorities of the two Koreas and the UNC removed firearms and guard posts from the JSA to complete the disarmament of the area as agreed through the Sept. 19 Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA). The CMA was made during the third summit between Moon and Kim in Pyongyang from Sept. 18 to 20.

One of the most apparent changes since then is that the South and North Korean guards in the area no longer carry guns.

Abrams in his July 27 speech remarked on this historic encounter between President Moon Jae-in and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un as well as another between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim a few weeks ago at the DMZ.

"History has been made here where just a few short weeks ago the U.S. president was able to step across the demarcation line into North Korea… and where President Moon shared tea with Kim Jong-un at the blue bridge forging a new path for their two nations," he said.

Government continues peace projects at DMZ

Meanwhile, the South Korean government is continuing to boost peace projects within and alongside the DMZ, to uphold the peace momentum created last year.

Starting May 1, tourists have been visiting the South Korean side of the area to visit symbolic sites of last year's April 27 inter-Korean summit.

And on July 26, the government announced that it will open a third hiking trail in Paju along the western section of the DMZ trail, on Aug. 10.

Tourists will be able to experience inter-Korean peace and the security situation on the Korean Peninsula on the trail, which will be around 21 kilometers for a round trip. It starts at Imjingak Pavilion and leads to a demolished guard post ― one of the 10 in the DMZ that the government demolished to implement the Sept. 19 iner-Korean CMA ― via Dorasan Observatory.

The opening of the DMZ Peace Trail in Paju follows the launch of the first one in the country's eastern coastal region of Goseong in April and the second one in the central border town of Cheorwon in June. Goseong and Cheorwon are both border cities in Gangwon Province, divided in half by the DMZ.


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