Many of the military experts who spent years clearing tens of thousands of landmines from the island of Kinmen may have left the outlying county, but their contribution will be remembered in a new exhibition center that opened this week.
Located within a military base on Kinmen’s main island, the center was unveiled on Monday to mark the removal of the landmines — sowed decades ago to thwart a potential Chinese invasion — by the army’s demining division in Kinmen.
Now that the military’s largest demining operation has come to a close, the division that established in 2007 was disbanded as of Tuesday, though about two dozen professional deminers remain in Kinmen as part of the new demining platoon to deal with any future discoveries of unexploded ordnance.
To share their important work with the public, they have left behind some of their protective gear, equipment and devices used to detect and remove mines.
Outside the exhibition hall is a mock removal crew — dressed in trademark orange uniform and with protective gear — showing visitors how the delicate procedure of removing mines is carried out.
Mines are a part of Kinmen’s history, considered the front line of defense for Taiwan throughout the second half of the 20th century due to its proximity to China’s Fujian Province.
Kinmen Defense Command said that the newly opened center allows visitors to get a peek into the challenges of removing mines as well as why they were deployed.
However, since the exhibition center is on a military base, only Taiwanese nationals are allowed entry. Anyone wanting to visit must first file an application with the Kinmen County Government one week in advance and be subject to an identity check, a defense official said.
The first group of visitors is expected later this month.
The center’s launch follows the establishment of a similar park located on the islet of Lieyu (烈嶼), known as Little Kinmen.
Managed by the Lieyu Township Office, the park includes a tunnel that features inactive mines and warning signs from different countries, including Cambodia, that have been used to inform visitors of the area’s dangerous past.
There are no restrictions on who can visit.
The military planted extensive minefields along the coast of Kinmen and Matsu in the 1950s and 1960s when tensions with China were at a high point.
As a result about 95,800 landmines and unexploded ordnance have been removed from Kinmen over the past several years.
Known for decades as a heavily fortified anti-communist bastion, Kinmen has succeeded in turning war-torn battlefields into tourist attractions, including several military tunnels and museums in memory of significant battles against China.