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All Clear in Kinmen 3: Bitter memories become attractions

All Clear in Kinmen 3: Bitter memories become attractions

By Elaine Hou, CNA staff reporter Known for decades as a heavily fortified anti-communist bastion, the outlying islands of Kinmen County are now turning war-torn battlefields into tourist attractions. One of the biggest pulls: a park centered on the landmine, a weapon meant to ruthlessly maim and kill. Located on the islet of Lieyu, the park, named the Landmine Theme Park in Chinese, occupies former military facilities and has drawn thousands of visitors each month this year after opening in mid-2012, according to the Lieyu Township Office. Kinmen's first mine park includes a tunnel filled with mines and warning signs from at home and countries including Cambodia to inform visitors of the area's dangerous past. Inside, simulated images of Kinmen beaches covered in the mines give a glimpse into what locals once saw every day. On the outside, a mock removal crew -- dressed in orange uniforms and with protective gear -- gives a step-by-step demonstration of the delicate procedure of removing mines. Of course, nothing on display is at risk of exploding. But the area where the park stands today was once an active minefield. The park represents a commitment to removing mines across Kinmen as the county aims at becoming a landmine-free place that appeals to tourists. "Landmines are part of Kinmen's battlefield characteristics," said Hung Jui-hung, tourism section chief of Lieyu's township office, and the park aims to preserve "that special memory." As a major tourist attraction, the park is now working on expanding to include walking trails and observatories, and to create a simulation of landmines buried among bushes. "We hope it will help attract more tourists to Kinmen," Hung said. Tens of thousands of mines were deployed around Kinmen County, as its dozen islets just a few kilometers off of China's coast were Taiwan's front line of defense against China throughout the Cold War. But as tensions between Taiwan and China have thawed over the years, Kinmen has looked to capitalize on its military history by transforming itself into a "park in the war zone." Top tourist destinations in the county include the Guningtou Battle Museum, the August 23 Artillery Battle Museum, and several military tunnels. While landmines have now become a thing of the past in Kinmen, the county will continue to carry its history into the future as it plans to open islands currently under military control to tourists, namely the islets of Dadan and Erdan.