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Barbed-wire fence sparks controversy

Posted November. 16, 2000 14:29,   


Will barbed wire fence destroy or protect ecosystem?

The Forestry Administration is setting up a 37-kilometer barbed wire fence on about 10 million pyong (33 million square meters) of land on Mount Kawiwang, known as a treasure house of an ecosystem, in Chongson-kun, Kangwon Province.

The work has triggered a heated dispute between the administration and environmental organizations, including the Ministry of Environment.

Building fence and characteristics of ecosystem:

The Office of the East Region Forestry under the wing of the Forestry Administration has been putting the barbed wire fence around Mount Kariwang since 1997 to build an observatory garden of a forest ecosystem and plans to complete the work by the end of this year.

Woods of 3,284ha (about 10.44 million pyong), including the peak of the mountain, will be enclosed with the barbed wire barrier, and the total size is about 11.6 times that of Yoido in Seoul.

The cost of the construction is 2.3 billion won (about US$2 million). The heated disputes over the fence were triggered by the importance of the mountain¡¯s ecosystem.

On Mount Kariwang, which rises 1,560 meters above sea level, rare trees such as yews live in stock and many plants of rare variety and wild flowers inhabit. The mountain was famous for its production of wild ginseng during the Choson period (1392-1910). A monument warning against general citizens¡¯ picking the precious plants there was set up. The mountain was also the home to wildlife such as hedgehogs, elks and mountain cats.

Contents of disputes:

The Forestry Administration says that the ecosystem in the demilitarized zone could be preserved thanks to the fence, and Mount Karigwan also needs a fence for the preservation of its ecosystem.

Yet the Ministry of Environment and Green Korea, a civic environmental group, claim that ¡°the barbed wire entanglements will block the free movement of animals, isolating rare animals and fanning their extinction.¡±

The administration says that the inside of the fence will play a role of a safety zone blocking people¡¯s reckless over-hunting of animals and plants. It claimed that the ecosystem was seriously destroyed, as yews were cut down illegally and various herbs and plants were damaged recklessly when there was no fence.

¡°We will clear passages that are 20 to 40 meters wide each, at six locations for free movement of animals,¡± an official of the administration said.

The administration plans to plant rare species of plants such as wild ginseng inside the fence next year and will build a house with a floor space of 145 pyong where students can observe the ecosystem on the mountain.

¡°Animals¡¯ free movement cannot be ensured by the planned six passages only, and the fence is not also supposed to deter illegal hunters¡¯ invasions,¡± a spokesman for Green Korea argued. ¡°And furthermore, the Forestry Administration is short of manpower.¡±

He claimed that the business of protecting wildlife was turned over to the Ministry of Environment from the Fishery Administration in May. Therefore, the management of animals in the mountain should be handed over to the Ministry of Environment, he added.

The ministry officials also said that they asked the Forestry Administration to halt building the fence in February and September.

¡°A comprehensive investigation of the ecosystem should be conducted shortly and whether to remove the fence or not should be decided on, depending on the result of the probe,¡± a ministry official said. ¡°If we need facilities for observation of wildlife, we have to make the minimum facilities where wild animals are raised and can be observed in a limited space. Any fence and facility standing in the way of wildlife¡¯s free moving should be removed.¡±

Ghyung In-Su sunghyun@donga.com