‘Remove mines first to build park in DMZ’

By: Kim Se-jeong

Craig Williams, a U.S. environmental activist who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997, said Tuesday there should be a plan to completely remove landmines in the Demilitarized Zone in order to build Eco-Peace Park.

“I am not clear on how this is going to be executed, because as far as I understand landmines are still there. Unless that issue is resolved, I don’t know how they’re going to do anything with it,” Williams said during an interview with The Korea Times.

Williams is a Vietnam War veteran and was one of the founding members of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) dedicated to removing landmines around the world, primarily in Southeast Asia. The group, which is no longer active, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 along with other organizations for their efforts to identify landmines and help experts and local governments remove them.

Williams was also a winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2006. The award is the most notable prize for environmental activism. He visited Korea to participate in Green Asia Forum organized by Korea Green Fund.

Williams said one year in Vietnam motivated him to start the landmine removal movement. “The war changed my life. It made me realize that you have to be able to identify what fulfills you, and not just be driven by what someone else thinks is good for you,” he said.

Removing landmines has been talked about for decades between the two Koreas, but no progress has occurred. Some critics say landmines in the demilitarized zone have been deliberately kept there as South Korea and the United States believe they prevent a North Korean attack.

Back in 1995, Williams said his group was in negotiations with the Clinton administration to convince them to sign the Ottawa Treaty, which bans the use of landmines. “Although the administration never said openly that one of the reasons they would not sign was because of the Korean situation, you eventually find out what’s going on without being told directly,” he said.

In 1985, Williams founded another group called Chemical Weapons Working Group to stop the U.S. government incinerating chemical weapons in the United States. His hometown was one of the locations where toxic chemicals were incinerated.


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