An unexpected wildlife sanctuary has emerged where a brutal war between the two Koreas once raged.
The demilitarized zone (DMZ) of the peninsula is home to expansive plains, lush vegetation, and rare species of flora and fauna that are thriving.
For the first time, Google Street View is now able to provide 360-degree views of the surroundings of the civilian control line, the buffer zone outside the DMZ where civilian activities are restricted.
These images are a part of a Google project commemorating seventy years since the 1953 armistice, which saw North and South Korea withdraw from the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Nine South Korean cultural institutions worked together to launch it.
After the military demarcation line was drawn on July 27, 1953, it became impossible for people to freely travel between the two Koreas. The DMZ cuts through the center of the Korean Peninsula, measuring a total of 4 km (2 mi) wide and 2 km (1 mi) from each of the north and south. The DMZ is roughly 1.5 times the size of Seoul and nearly twice the size of New York City at 907 square kilometers (305 square miles).
Beyond the civilian control line locations are off limits to lone travelers but are accessible through authorized tour operators. In the region, South Korea has also opened hiking trails.
The National Institute of Ecology of South Korea estimates that the DMZ is now home to nearly 6,200 different wildlife species. Particularly, the zone is home to 38% of the endangered species on the Korean peninsula. These include, among others, golden eagles, musk deer, and mountain goats. Unmanned cameras' photographs give these species some hope for the future.
Surveys have been carried out along the barbed-wire fencing surrounding the zone for years by researchers at the DMZ Botanic Garden. Numerous plant species that are unique to the Korean peninsula are said to be present in the DMZ.
The DMZ still has barbed-wire fences, landmine warning signs, and the wreckage of destroyed homes despite the vibrant display of life.
After all, the two Koreas are still technically divided, and the war has not officially ended.