Aug. 4 (UPI) -- South Korea has agreed to sell state-owned land near the North Korea border to local farmers who have occupied the area for decades.
The Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission, a government agency, has drafted a new arbitration proposal that could lay the groundwork for new settlement rights among squatters who have occupied some of the 2,370 acres of land located in Yanggu County, Gangwon Province, News 1 reported Tuesday.
The land, located in Haean Township, includes Haean Basin, which U.S. troops referred to as "Punchbowl" during the Korean War. The area was the site of fierce fighting between U.S.-led U.N. forces and the North Korean army. The territory changed hands eight times.
Almost all the original proprietors have fled to North Korea since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. South Koreans continued to farm the land but about 260 households were relocated in 1956 and 1972.
Seoul has previously attempted to recognize squatter rights but to give away the land to the farmers was ruled to be unconstitutional, according to News 1.
The farmers who work the land are technically illegal occupants. Some of the residents have been engaging in activity not recognized by the law, including the buying and selling of farming rights on state-owned property, the report says.
South Korea's civil rights commission is proposing new plans following the filing of a civil complaint by the farmers, who have demanded they be allowed to purchase the land from the government. A decree will enforce the land sales.
South Korea's Cold War past is being revisited in other venues.
Seoul Economic Daily reported Tuesday that Lawyers for Human Rights and Unification of Korea, a conservative group, has won the right to a hearing regarding the case of classified documents regarding Lim Su-kyung, a South Korean woman who attended a North Korean youth festival in 1989 and met with leader Kim Il Sung. The group is demanding the government declassify the documents, according to the report.