As one of the five biggest tidal flats in the world, preservation of the Saemangeum area has become a concern that extends beyond the borders of Korea. Over 50% of birds migrating between New Zealand and Siberia are estimated to rest at the tidal flat. The area is located along the southwestern shore of the Korean peninsula in the North Cholla Province. It is the main livelihood for most of the surrounding fishing community. Housing more than 300 types of aquatic and plant species, the tidal flat is also an integral piece of the regional ecosystem.

Proponents are quick to cite the vast economic potential in developing the region. Those against the development argue that the economic analysis fails to account for many negative externalities. In other words, the future cost of eliminating the tidal flat, along with many plants and animal species that live there would far outweigh the economic benefits gained today. Mud flats such as this one have been estimated by scientists to be between three and ten times the value of farmland.

For three years, environmental advocates, representatives from major religious groups, and various concerned civic groups throughout Korea have been aggressively demanding that the proposed development of the Saemangeum wetland area be abandoned. The movement is gaining momentum and now has the attention of the Korean government.

Development of this area was temporarily postponed in 1999 while the government evaluated the environmental impact of the project. The Korean government was expected to reach a final decision on the project in February 2001. However, the decision has been delayed twice, and the project remains in a state of confusion.

By Michael Shea (

Posted by GreenKorea
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  1. 2012.07.06 12:11
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