South Korea is seeking international recognition of its tense border region with North Korea as an area rich in wildlife, officials said Friday.
The environment ministry said it has submitted an application to register a 2,979 square kilometre (1,150 sq mile) area, including the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) and the surrounding restricted area, as a UNESCO biosphere reserve.
The DMZ is a buffer strip extending for two kilometres (1.25 miles) each side of the actual borderline between North and South. But the area is also home to animals including musk deer, elk, wild boar, and rare birds.
The edge of the zone is fenced and heavily fortified but the DMZ itself has been largely untouched by humankind since the 1950-53 war.
As a result, it is home to some 2,716 species of plants and animals including many endangered species, the ministry said in a statement.
Civilians cannot enter the DMZ and their movements are restricted in a strip of land immediately to the south of it.
"Based on a shared understanding of the significance of the zone, we will try to preserve the eco-system in the DMZ," the statement said.
UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) will decide whether to list the area as a biosphere reserve at a meeting next June.
South Korea has already won UNESCO recognition of four other such reserves. If it secures the same status for the DMZ, the area will be managed and preserved according to UNESCO guidelines designed to protect the ecosystem.