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Mount Cheonseong’s Background

Posted February. 04, 2005 22:57,   



At 2:00 p.m. on February 4, heavy construction equipment was at work, making blasting sounds in the construction spots of Samdong, Ulju, and Ulsan for the Wonhyo tunnel through Mount Cheonseong for the KTX train.

The entrance of the Wonhyo tunnel (13.23 kilometers long) and the exit of the Samdong tunnel (235 meters long) are facing each other, 150 meters apart, and the construction of both tunnels is currently underway. The entrance of the Wonhyo tunnel adjoins the bottom of Mount Cheonseong.

Some 200 meters of the Wonhyo tunnel have been dug to this date, which the consortium of SK, Daewoo and Samsung is working together on, and about 100 meters of the Samdong tunnel have been completed.

Construction workers noted, “Underground water has not leaked even though we have dug 200 meters, as the soil is in pretty good condition.”

Mount Cheonseong covers Habuk-myeon in Yangsan and Ulju-gun in Ulsan, South Gyeongsang province. Peaks of more than 700 meters above sea level form along nine ridges, one after another, creating a scenic view that is called the “Geumgang Mountains of southeastern Korea.”

It once was called Wonhyo Mountain because of a story in which Wonhyo, a Buddhist monk in Shilla, preached the Avatamska Sutra to 1,000 monks from Tang. Now, there sit about 10 small Buddhist temples in the region including Naewon, Hongryong and Nojeon temples.

Mount Cheonseong has 20,000-pyeong of alpine plains (one pyeong is equivalent to 3.954 square yards), Hwaeom fields, and Mujechi wheat fields where you can observe primitive nature and approximately 20 swamps such as the Hwaeom, Daesung and Hakgol swamps.

Some of these wetlands that were first discovered in 1997 were designated as wetland conservation areas in 1998. Conservation workers have been assigned to these places, and ordinary citizens have been restricted from access to this region ever since. The Wonhyo tunnel measures anywhere from 200 to 1,000 meters below the marshes and 200 to 500 meters at right angles.

As for the Mujechi swamp, however, it has been destroyed as a result of public access, water supply and forest road construction efforts. Its wetland is reported to be drying and rapidly transforming into a grassy plain.

The Buddhist nun Jiyul and environmental protection groups are arguing that a wrong touch of an underground water vein would ruin the wetland by letting all of its water leak out.

Regarding their claim, the Korea Rail Network Authority refutes that the tunnels they are building and nearby swamps are hundreds of meters apart from each other, so careful construction would not affect the swamps at all.

A resident of Deokkye, Yangsan states, “It doesn’t make sense that tunnels would let underground water out,” and warned, “A lot more underground water must be drying due to emerging restaurants and nearby hot springs.”

Dong-Bin Seok mobidic@donga.com