The Gariwang was considered a royal, forbidden mountain and has been under state protection for centuries. Now its ancient forest is being bulldozed to make room for a ski slope. PETER FROST is not alone in holding this to be an environmental crime


As you are reading this South Korea Olympic organisers and their bulldozers are tearing down a 500-year-old forest to make room for new ski facilities.

Trees, some centuries old, are being ripped from the ground and four dangerously threatened animal species that make their home here are being persecuted into extinction.

The four animals under serious threat are the eurasian otter, the leopard cat, the marten (below) and the flying squirrel. All four along with rare and threatened insects and plants are at severe risk from the policy decision that will see the forest cut down entirely.


Across the mountainside a huge bare-earth scar has appeared where South Koreans are building a ski course for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Any building or development for Olympic games should — in accordance with the International Olympic Committee rules — conform to green Olympics rules and be built and operated on principles of environmental sustainability.

In fact the Korean developments fly directly in the face of world opinion and the views of the wider Olympic movement.

The Korean government has a hidden agenda. It is clear that when the Games are over the site will be further developed as a profitable winter sports tourist resort despite lame assurances that the site can be returned to pristine forest after the 2018 winter games.

The country’s most beloved mountain will disappear under a huge and tacky tourist infrastructure where profit and quick money replace a sustainable ancient forest and a tranquil landscape close to the heart of Koreans.


The site is on the sacred Mount Gariwang, a mountain that features in much of the rich cultural history of Korea. It has long been a protected area covered by an ancient forest rich in rare flora and fauna. A place of peace and home to many local folktales and legends.

As well as the above mentioned threatened species it is also home to many unique plant species, including the rare yew, the Wangsasre tree, which is only found on the Korean peninsula.

Also growing in the forest is what is believed to be the oldest oak in the country. The felling and clearing of this ancient woodland can only be seen as an act of wanton vandalism.

During the late 14th century under the Chosun dynasty the Gariwang mountain was considered a royal, forbidden mountain and has been under state protection ever since.

Now that centuries-old special protective status has been swept away — first to secure the Olympic bid success and when that was won to make way for the construction of a ski course.


This environmental vandalism is short sighted, illogical and, worst of all, irreversible. Once this precious forest is gone, it’s gone forever and with it will go the threatened animals and plants that made it their home.

Already an online petition to the Korean government organised by Avaaz has attracted over a million signatures.

This article first appeared in the Morning Star 18 Sept 2015.


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