|2009.08.14 08:28||2009.08.14 08:28 | Eco-system Conservation|
Korean environmental organizations such as Green Korea United have fought against a recent policy of the Ministry of Environment (MOE) the Korean government currently set out detailed plans for driving forward eased restrictions on construction of cable cars in national parks, which will cause severe damage to the natural environment. Cable cars could cause serious damage to ecosystems. Therefore, we call upon the IUCN to pay special attention to the current situation in Korea for biodiversity improvement and ecological protection.
MOE set out the plan to reform the Natural Park Act by August and it allows the construction of cable cars in the Nature Preservation Zones of national parks such as Mt. Jiri, Mt. Seorak, etc. based on the following: modification of the restriction on maximum cable length, 2km, to 5km (Item 2 of Art. 14 of Draft Enforcement Ordinance); inclusion of cable cars in park facilities allowed outside of park areas (Item 2 of Art. 2 of Draft Enforcement Ordinance); modification of the height restriction of cable car stations, 9m, to 15m (Item 2 of Art. 2 of Draft Enforcement Ordinance). Once the bill is passed, it will allow cable car construction atCheonwangbong or Jeseokbong, the 2 highest peaks of Mt. Jiri and Daecheongbong, the highest peak of Mt. Seorak. As a result, a big cable car construction boom will follow like falling domino blocks. Moreover, Draft Enforcement Ordinance can be passed through a Cabinet meeting without consideration by Parliament. We are irritated by the attitude of MOE saying that public opinion was collected with announcement of the legislation without any public hearing at all.
Since 5 national parks including Mt. Seorak, Mt. Worak, Mt. Sobaek and Mt. Odae were upgraded to IUCN Category II, 'National Park', in 2007 after the majority of Korean national parks came under IUCN Category V, 'Protected Landscape / Seascape'for long, the government has had high estimation of its own management effort and the resource value of Korean national parks to be internationally recognized. Management guidelines for IUCN Protect areas stipulate that national parks will have core zones where visitor numbers are strictly controlled, aimedat protecting a whole ecosystem to ensure a natural environment for scientific studies, environmental education and so on. Thus, facilitating construction of cable cars in Nature Conservation Zones, the core zone of national parks, runs counter to international criteria and policies and also contradicts IUCN's conservation policies. MOE plans to add Mt. Juwang, Mt. Wolchul, Mt. Songni and Dadohae Marine Park to IUCN Category II in the second half of this year.
Korean nature parks as the bastion of the national ecosystem
Korean nature parks account for 4.93% of Korea's land with 76 parks (20 national parks) at a total area of 7,807㎢. Among Use Zones in national parks such as Nature Conservation Zones, Nature Environment Zones, Nature Village Zones, Clustered Village Zones and Shared Facility Zones, Nature Conservation Zones were specially designated for the areas which have significantly high biodiversity, aboriginal ecosystems, wild plants and animals with a high protection value, beautiful landscapes and so on and its total size is 1,971.503㎢ accounting for only2% of the total land area of the country. Therefore, this 2% of the land area must be preserved as the last bastion of the national ecosystem.
However, to our regret, it is the Ministry of Environment that is at the front line to develop this land. It has been 42 years since the national park system was introduced in Korea and 11 years since MOE took charge of national park management. MOE wants to reform the Natural Park Act even before it fully operates National Park Management Policy. It is pathetic and embarrassing that MOE neglects its commitment and responsibility while the government puts deregulation on the front burner. In the United States of America, the country which designated a national park for the first time in the world, there are no cable cars. Also in Japan, the country that had a big cable car boom, there has been no cable cars constructed since 1990.
Cable car is the facility thathas serious influence on the natural ecosystem through the process of construction and operation.
The metal structure operated by electricity cuts a plant ecosystem in two and has negative influence on animals such as birds very sensitive to noise for their normal growth and breeding. Above all, cable cars increase the number of visitors that disturb habitats of wild life and contribute to damage at the top of mountains. Currently there are 7 nature parks with operating cable cars including Naejangsan National Park, DeokyusanNational Park, Seoraksan National Park, DaedunsanProvincial Park, Mt. Palgong Provincial Park, Geumosan Provincial Park and DuryunsanProvincial Park. In Naejangsan National Park, deserted land has been expanded around the cable car station on top of the mountain resulting in dead vegetation and the habitat of Natural Treasure No. 91, macropodum, being cut in two. It has been a while since the top of Gwongeumseong area in Mt. Seorak was turned into ruins by operation of Gwongeumseong Cable Car. The recent situation caused by operation of cable cars in nature parks shows clearly why we are opposed to the proposed reforms.
Confirming to add 3~4 Korean national parks to IUCN Protected Area Category II later this year, the actual inspection of IUCN panel will be organized by the end of this year. Due to this significantnegative influence on national park related laws, we call on IUCN to show its interest and concern about the recent policy changes of theKorean government with its international influence over the policies on protected areas in the discussion of national park registration with the Korean government. Answering to some demands of local councils and people that regard national parks, the core area of natural environment preservation zones, only as targets of land development, the Korean government is seeking to reform the legislation to allow them to build more cable cars in nature preservation zones of national parks. It explains that the Korean government wants to give up the national park management policy with these reforms.
What sets Korean national parks apart from other nations' parks is the volume of its visitors and the amount of pressurethis puts on ecosystems. In total, about 37 million visitors have been to national parks. Jirisan National Park has 24 trails for such visitors and Seoraksan National Park has 15, along with countless other secret byways. Consequently, cable cars add to the problems for Korean national parks the issue of managing the high demand for individual opportunities for exploration andthe problem of dealing with ecosystem preservation.
We urge the Korean government to withdraw the reform of the National Park Act
The KNPS has taken exclusive responsibility for managing the national park, specifically regarding its visitors. However,in order to preserve this environment and protect our ecosystems, we must also focus on the management of national resources, as well. Green Korea United has campaigned against the policy of cable car construction in each of national parks for the last 4 months. A large majority of people who we met during the campaign objected to it and were enraged with MOE accelerating construction of cable cars in national parks. Thus we urge the Korean government to withdraw the reform of the National Park Act answering to the majority of people. We hope the IUCN realizes that the cable car would have more drastically harmful consequences on the ecosystem, particularly because of the sheer number of visitors and accommodating trails already established.
We call on IUCN again in announcing its statement or recommendation about the recent policy changes of the Korean government to use its international influence in the discussion of national park registration with the Korean government.
translated by Yang Sejin, Kim kihoon