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Environmental groups stop Pyeongchang2018 cutting down forest at Mount Gariwang

The giant "Wangsasure," the signature wood species in Mt. Kariwang-sanThe giant "Wangsasure," the signature wood species in Mt. Kariwang-san

The argument over the Pyeongchang2018 downhill course at Mount Gariwang continues. Recently green activists noticed that the authorities were starting to cut down trees on the mountain. The coalition of South Korean environment groups arguing with the government over the so-called restoration programme immediately protested pointing out that no agreement had yet been reached over this restoration programme. No work on the mountain is allowed to begin until this programme is agreed and the environmental coalition has so far rejected the Government's proposals for restoring the forest after the Olympics. The Department of the Environment then intervened to stop the work.

In a petition launched on Avaaz calling on the International Olympic Committee and the South Korean Government to prevent the destruction of the forest Mount Gariwang is described as:

The site of the largest plantation of wangsasre trees, a hybrid Aspen-Birch, which is only found on the Korean Peninsula. It is also the home of rare yew trees and possibly the oldest oak in South Korea. Conservationists describe Mount Gariwang as a 'Super-A' class site. Historically Gariwang mountain has a very special meaning for the Korean people. For five centuries from the late 14th century during the Chosun dynasty the mountain was under state protection during which time it was a ‘royal, forbidden mountain’.

More environmental groups have joined the argument over the destruction of the forest on Mount Gariwang. In October South Korea is due to host the 12th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. The fact that this meeting is to be held at Pyeongchang, where the authorities plan to cut down this valuable 'Super-A' class resource, which had been designated by the Korean Forestry Service as an area for the 'Protection of flora genes and forest Eco-systems', a designation then removed to allow it to be destroyed for Pyeongchang2018, has only served to strengthen the resolve of those groups opposed to its destruction.

The coalition of environmental groups continue to argue that under the rules of the International Ski Federation (FIS-Ski) there is a viable alternative to using Mount Gariwang for the downhill course at the nearby ski resort of Yongpyong and have sent a further letter to the FIS urging it to abandon its insistence on using Mount Gariwang. It has also held a meeting with the Provincial Governor. So far the authorities have failed to respond. However, the deadlock over the restoration programme means the work on the mountain faces further delays with the possibility of legal action and protests around the upcoming Biodiversity Conference.

Forestry Service sign designating areas as important for preserving genetic resources and endangered plantsForestry Service sign designating areas as important for preserving genetic resources and endangered plants

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