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The Republic of Korea recovers its forests after half a century of damage

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South Korea’s forests currently cover 64% of the country’s total landmass, something like 6.4 million hectares. This was not always the case, as in the mid-20th century, Korea’s soils suffered the consequences of wars and illegal logging, resulting in the degradation of its lands and the decline of its forests. This, added to the uncontrolled shifting cultivation, caused the standing timber volume to be 10 m3 per hectare.

However, after more than 60 years of reforestation projects and programs, by 2010 the volume of plant material had reached 126 m3 per hectare. All efforts dating back to 1945 have resulted in the planting of approximately 12 billion trees on an area of 4.25 million hectares throughout the country.

In 1945, planting began in the Republic of Korea to use wood as fuel. Plans changed at the end of the Korean War in 1950, where 56% of the plantation had survived. Then, in 1973, the First Ten-Year National Plan for Forest Rehabilitation and Restoration was inaugurated; Since then and after four plans, South Korea had already recovered its forests.

The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), a global non-profit organization, highlights the management and achievement done by the Republic of Korea and positions them as an example to follow. “Understanding the transition of South Korea’s forests offers a starting point for other developing countries, such as Indonesia, in devising strategies to regain the state of their forests, which are poorly governed and economically developed” said Jae Soo Bae, CIFOR scientist and researcher.

Similarly, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) highlight South Korea as a successful case of protecting its native species. This change was achieved through the training of small farmers who, thanks to their work, recovered the areas exploited for the creation of firewood and charcoal.

The sustainable management of forests is goal 15 of the United Nations 2030 Agenda, an agreement so that development has as its central axis people, the planet, prosperity, peace and partnerships. Chile is part of the 193 member states on the agenda and the initiatives taken regarding reforestation were highlighted by FAO, however, it also notes the vast gap that separates it from South Korea and how much more work needs to be done.


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