The Most Beautiful Thing He Had Ever Seen!
August 29, 2011
Twenty years ago, a South Korean soldier named Choi Jong Soo was standing watch when he saw an enormous white bird fly overhead. He thought it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. It was a red-crowned crane, and he resolved to learn everything he could about it. Today, he works for the Korean Society to Protect Birds.
North and South Korea are still technically at war, but their people are collaborating to save one of the world's most endangered bird species, the red-crowned crane. Since the 1953 cease-fire, the demilitarized zone (DMZ) has become something of an unintended nature preserve. The 154 mile long, 2.5 mile wide borderland was abandoned by farmers and left untended. On one edge of the zone is the one-million-strong North Korean Army; on the other are 600,000 South Korean and 17,000 U.S. soldiers. Between them are tank traps, infiltration tunnels, and as many as a million land mines.
In the April, 2011 print copy of the Smithsonian magazine, Eric Wagner's article "Living on the Edge" chronicles how the rare cranes have flourished in such an unlikely place, and how both North and South Koreans are working together to save this beautiful bird. With a little imagination, you could say that these cranes are unexpected peacemakers.
You can find the magazine in the library, and you can also access the article online here. It makes for fascinating reading!