Message by Nelson Mandela to Conference on conservation of Korea's Demilitarised Zone, Seoul, Korea

14 July 2004

In March 2001 I met President Kim Dae Jung to discuss the possibility that the very symbol of division on the Korean peninsula - the demilitarised zone - could serve as a bridge to closer relations and even maybe re-unification. I did so, not only because of the obvious advantages it would bring to the region, but specifically for the fact that such a step will enlarge the horizons of human hope and advance the prospects of peace and social justice in the rest of the world.

President Kim Dae Jung reacted positively and encouraged me to continue the dialogue with his counterpart in North Korea, Kim Chong-il. Unfortunately no formal meeting could be arranged with the latter.

What is it that I wanted them to do? I wanted them to consider the DMZ becoming a peace park - similar to what we were establishing in Southern Africa. Twenty-two peace parks cutting across international boundaries are being established in our region. A further 169 have been identified internationally covering 113 countries.

I know of no political movement, no philosophy, no ideology and no religion that does not agree with the peace parks concept as we see it going into fruition today. It is truly a concept that can be embraced by all.

We are grateful for the success of the concept in Southern Africa. At the same time one recognises certain similarities between Africa and the two Koreas. In 1884 Africa was dealt like a pack of cards to the colonial powers. The new national boundaries proclaimed in colonial times cut across tribal and clan groupings, across animal migration routes, fragmenting eco-systems and led to bio-diversity being destroyed.

Because of the way the DMZ was set up, their bio-diversity has been remarkably protected, but not their people. And at what cost: millions of innocent compatriots, foreign friends and soldiers on both sides died. Surely it is now the time to establish the world’s most significant peace park - a park to literally embody peace between human and human, and peace between human beings and nature.

Although I cannot be present at this conference where our dream for a peace park in the DMZ will be discussed between stakeholders, I want to assure you all of my personal support. I pray that you will find the energy and momentum, the decency and love for one another to make this dream come true. There is no reason to fear its implications. As Franklin Roosevelt put it so pertinently: "We have nothing to fear but fear itself".

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation