In Absentia – Paper


When discussing the Green Line in Cyprus (GL) and the Demilitarized Zone in Korea (DMZ), the first thought for many would be to consider the important socio-political contexts that have divided the surrounding regions resulting in the creation of the two areas in question. There are indeed a number similarities between the two regions, both areas exist as a buffer zone that have been established  as a result of extended conflict as a means of avoiding further conflict either region. The GL was established by and controlled by the UN following the conflict between Northern Cyprus and Cypriots of Turkish descent and Southern Cyprus and Cypriots of Greek descent of 1963-64 and cemented following the 1974 invasion of Cyprus by Turkey as (Kaloudis, 1999; Innes, 2017) and has remained uninhabited by humans to this day. Similarly, half a world away, the Korean Peninsula was divided following the Korean War of 1950-53, with the DMZ being established as a 4km stretch of land straddling the border between the two nations, standing uninhabited for almost 70 years (Brady, 2008).

New Tenants

There are a wide variety of conversations dedicated to establishing how, when and indeed if the regions can be re-united, many focusing the practical implications for the people who have been long displaced from such areas raising questions regarding land and property rights as well as the feasibility of integration between populations with such long standing enmity (Georgiou, 2009; Varnava, 2011; Terry, 2014; Sangillo, 2001); there is perhaps less thought being given to those who inhabited these spaces following the sudden exit of humanity, the flora and fauna that have since occupied many of these unpopulated areas and what fate befalls them following any potential reunification and repopulation of the environment (Diamond, 2020).

Within such areas, certain endangered species have been able to thrive, as nature slowly begins to reclaim land lost long ago to urban centres and agriculture, we’re beginning to see the formation of safe spaces for endangered populations to thrive. Within the DMZ for example, we can see evidence of large numbers of Red-Crested Cranes using the area during migration (Azios, 2008), which have long been revered throughout the Korean Peninsula throughout history (Kim, Steiner and Mueller, 2011). We can see evidence of these birds migrating from breeding grounds across eastern China and the Russian border, to spend the winter months amongst the wetlands of the DMZ. In recent years, we have seen a change in these migratory patterns, increased farming around their previously scattered wintering sites has contributed to the formation of a single larger wintering site across the Cheorwon region, straddling the border region of the DMZ, this site has provided a scenario in which these communities have been allowed to thrive, slowly increasing in number (Su and Zou, 2012). In addition, to this there is also evidence of the endangered herb Hanabusaya Asiatica taking root within the region (Card, 2008). Hanabusaya Asiatica is one of a number of plant species endemic to the Korean Peninsula, being found in the Dragon Moors, a wetland located at high altitude on Mount Daeam in the Baekdudaegan Mountain Range, that forms a backbone down the length of the peninsula (Yoon et. al., 2018).

Within the GL on the other hand, there are populations of both the protected Cyprus Mouflon, which has seen numbers of up to 3000 strong within the region (Karadjias and Gatapoulos, 2007), within the small abandoned village of Variseia alone, scientists have noted a herd 200 strong have populated the area, making it their own (Simonsen, 2009).

The rare Cyprus Tulip has also been noted to be thriving within the GL (Trias-Blasi, Gücel and Özden, 2017), leading to the establishment of two Plant Micro-Reserves near the villages of Mammari and Denai, ensuring the cultivation of these other other rare plants endemic to the island (Constantinou and Eftychiou, 2014).


Whilst taking part in the Count-Territories workshops, the idea of countermapping has been primarily framed by the human experience; maps are often created by the victor, countermapping as a process is thus important as a means of reclaiming identity and charting both traditions and socio-political context through the redefining of borders (O’Dwyer, 2018); to this end I would like to posit that the reclamation of urban environments in the absence of humanity such as those described here amounts to something akin to an organically occurring process of countermapping, nature is redefining its own borders, redefining the context of these urban spaces.


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