Korea is known for its success in combating land devastation. Long years of slash-and-burn farming and firewood logging left many parts of its territory devastated at the end of the Joseon Dynasty. To remedy this situation, an afforestation project was planned and completed for deteriorated forests around Changuimun Gate in 1907. During the last few years of the Japanese Colonial Period and the Korean War, forest exploitation and deforestation for war material accelerated throughout the country. Devastation reached its peak in 1956, with around 0.68 million ha, or 10% of South Korean forests, destroyed and in need of restoration.
Forest restoration and erosion control projects prioritized the recovery of devastated land. Numerous projects for soil erosion control and reforestation were implemented. Planned restorations to remedy such large-scale devastation were completed around 1983.
There are four reasons for Korea’s success with afforestation. First, it was the late President Park Chung-Hee’s leadership and persistence regarding green projects. Second, the strong social response from people who participated in tree planting and poverty relief activities supported the success of the afforestation projects. Third, the Korea Forest Service, established in 1967, played a critical role in organizing systems and regulations for forestry and planning restoration projects. Lastly, as most of the projects were systemized under the direct control of the government, officials took responsibility and worked hands-on to yield the best results by running operations in restoration fields.
Today, with the advent of climate change that results in global warming and the vast amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, reforestation is more important than ever before. It is hoped that the success Korea experiences will continue, and serve as a model for other nations to follow.
Brief Interpretation of the Map
The area of South Korea devoted to “omplete”and “n progress” reforestation represents a significant percentage of the land area of the country. From the map, this percentage looks like it is approaching 10%, a major commitment to environmental restoration and carbon sequestration. Carbon sequestration is an especially important aspect of the global fight to offset global warming, especially in light of the huge current annual rate of deforestation in Southeast Asia and the Amazon Basin. It is estimated that every growing tree, especially young tropical trees, sequesters or stores 50 pounds of carbon per year that it removes from the atmosphere. Likewise, for every tree lost to deforestation, this amount of carbon still remains in the atmosphere without being removed. Today, 63.2% of South Korea’ territory (100,266 square kilometers) is covered in forests. Given that Brazil’ Amazon Basin is being deforested at a rate of 5830 square kilometers per year, how many years will it take for South Korea to be totally devoid of trees if deforestation is indeed allowed to take place at the Amazon Basin rate? On the contrary, how many square kilometers of forest can be added with a 10% afforestation in the Korean territory (when totally completed)?