South Korean government must stop killing of 500-year-old primeval forest right now

South Korea’s Gariwang mountain has been a sanctuary for a primeval forest for centuries, dating back to Joseon dynasty, the country’s last kingdom. But the fate of the Gariwang mountain’s forest reserve is being threatened. On Tuesday, the central and Gangwon provincial governments savagely chopped down trees at the entry to the protected forest to make a road needed for construction. The authorities are tearing down the virgin forest to build a ski jump stadium for the three-day sports competition Pyeongchang Olympic Games. An estimated 50,000 trees are set to be sacrificed. The massive felling, an act of unthinkable devastation in the 21stcentury, is taking place in 2014 in Korea.

The International Ski Federation (FIS)’ rules stipulate no need to build the Alpine ski jump stadium at Gariwang mountain. The downhill skiing competition can be held at Yongpyong Ski Resort, which has 700 meter elevation, if a 50-meter structure is installed at the resort. Indeed, that is how the Nagano Olympics held the Alpine skiing in 1998. This would save hundreds of billions of won, a cost equivalent to $96.5 million or more, and preserve the ancient forest at Gariwang mountain. There is an ample leeway to go for alternatives unless predatory builders and developers are determined to gain profit.

To fell the forest, Korea’s central government and Gangwon provincial municipality are employing a special law enacted to pursue the Pyeongchang Olympics, while the Korea Forest Service withdrew the designation of Gariwang forest as forest reserve. Citizens devoted to conserving the forest and lives are pouring heart and soul into defending the Gariwang forest. Green Party Korea opposes the felling of Gariwang forest and calls for the central and Gangwon provincial governments to turn to other options.

The Gariwang forest is not just for residents of Pyeongchang, Gangwon and other Korean regions. The forest, nurturing the biodiversity of precious living organisms, is a natural heritage of the entire Earth. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) would not welcome a criticism that it went ahead with the Winter Olympics at the expense of obliterating the cherished old-growth forest. Green Party Korea will seek to organize the international community’s efforts and actions to safeguard the Gariwang forest. We will inform the IOC of the ongoing destruction of the mountain’s forest and spark attention from the international community. We will work with Global Greens to halt the construction. We urge Korea’s central and Gangwon provincial governments to abandon the construction at Gariwang mountain before inviting condemnation from around the world.


September 17, 2014

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*The 2 Run rule allows the combination of records from two Alpine skiing races at a 350 meter-elevation to 450 meter-elevation ski jump stadium. There is also another rule accepting the ski competition at a 750 meter-elevation jump stadium. In other words, the downhill competition can be held at a 700 meter-elevation area by extending 50 extra meters.

09/18/2014 – 15:21

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