South Korea is rolling out a metaverse version of DMZ for virtual tours of the historic buffer zone

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South Korea’s Unification Ministry on Thursday launched a DMZ metaverse platform, allowing visitors to visit virtual locations inside the buffer zone between the two Koreas. Image courtesy of South Korea’s Unification Ministry

SEOUL, March 31 (UPI) — The South Korean government launched a metaverse version of the DMZ on Thursday, allowing visitors to take a virtual tour of some of the landmarks in the heavily fortified buffer zone that has separated the two Koreas for nearly 70 years.

the demilitarized zone metaverse “develop[s] the real-life DMZ experience with personalized avatars and immersive technology,” South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which developed the platform, said in a statement.

The website is a “public platform for collaboration and communication that transcends time and space constraints,” the ministry said.

Users can walk through 3D versions of real locations in the DMZ, such as the blue UN buildings in the truce village of Panmunjom and a border observatory that offers views of Mount Kumgang in North Korea.

South Korea’s first real-world DMZ Peace Trail, which opened in Goseong in April 2019, can also be explored virtually, including a faithful recreation of an excavator damaged by a landmine.

During a period of renewed diplomacy with North Korea in 2018 and 2019, South Korea pushed hard to rebrand the DMZ, long seen as a symbol of hostility topped with barbed wire, into a destination of ” peace tourism”.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has kept most DMZ sites closed to the public for most of the past two years. Relations with North Korea are also at an all-time low, with Pyongyang last week launching its first ICBM since 2017 and growing concerns over the possibility of a nuclear test.

“It is not easy for the public to visit the DMZ,” a Unification Ministry official told UPI, citing travel times and lengthy application procedures. “We created this metaverse platform to help improve people’s understanding of the DMZ.”

Libraries of information on the history and ecology of the 250 km long and 4 km wide strip of land are also accessible inside the platform.

South Korea relies heavily on the metaverse — a catch-all concept for an immersive, shared digital realm in which users navigate as personalized avatars — as a key driver of future economic growth.

In February, the country’s Ministry of Science and ICT announced an investment of $183 million to create a “national metaverse ecosystem” by developing expertise, supporting local businesses and developing legal frameworks for nascent technology. .

The Seoul Metropolitan Government also unveiled plans last November to become the first major city to enter the metaverse, with a five-year roadmap for rolling out a virtual hub of government, business and , tourism and culture.

The city kicked off the project ringing in the year 2022 with a virtual New Year’s Eve ceremony inside the Metaverse.

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