Now a peaceful outpost after decades as a heavily fortified anti-communist bastion, Kinmen County is attracting tourists from Taiwan, China and elsewhere with an unusual new park featuring land mines.
The park on Little Kinmen, also known as Lieyu (烈嶼), the second-largest island in the county, has drawn thousands of visitors since it opened in the middle of last year, the Lieyu Township Office said.
The opening of the park came as the military continued its campaign to remove all remaining mines in Kinmen and clear the county of land mines, said Hung Jui-hung, the office’s tourism section chief.
“This is the first park in Kinmen that features land mines,” he said.
The mines will be cleared away completely, but the park would preserve “a special part of Kinmen’s history,” he said.
The park includes a tunnel where a variety of land mines and warning signs, along with information on the demining process and hundreds of mine fields in Kinmen, are displayed, Hung said.
Outside the tunnel, there is an area that features a mock crew demonstrating every step in the dangerous task of removing land mines.
The demining work, began in 1998, continues to this day and could be completed by the end of this year at the earliest, Ministry of National Defense spokesman Major General David Lo (羅紹和) said.
Tens of thousands of mines were deployed around Kinmen County when it was under constant military threat from China during the Cold War.
As tensions between Taiwan and China eased, the county looked to capitalize on its disused military hardware and former battlegrounds by transforming itself into a “park in the war zone.”
When martial law was lifted throughout Kinmen County and some of its islands were demilitarized in 1992, tourists started to descend on Kinmen’s main island.
Top tourist destinations there now include the Guningtou Battle Museum, the August 23 Artillery Battle Museum and many military tunnels.
The Cabinet is also reviewing a plan to open Dadan (大膽) and Erdan (二膽) islets, which remain under military control, to tourists.
Kinmen County Commissioner Li Wo-shi (李沃士) said in February that the county government would this year begin planning the construction of a harbor on Dadan as part of a strategy to take over jurisdiction from the military within three years.
No civilians currently live on Dadan or Erdan, which lies about 4km from Xiamen on China’s southeastern coast. The two islets also served as frontline military outposts during the Cold War.
The number of tourists visiting Kinmen County has been on the rise in recent years and reached a record 1.265 million last year, the county government said.