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[Opinion] Pine Trees In Danger

Posted April. 04, 2005 23:36,   


Starting from the year 1100 (King Sukjong, the Goryeo Dynasty) and continuing for the next three years, there was huge damage done to pine trees by harmful insects. The country tried hard to catch the insects by sending out troops and chanting Buddhist scriptures, but had no luck. One day, several subjects informed the King, “As we are not good enough to end the damage done by insects, please appoint wise ones and send out unworthy ones.” Because the pine trees were dying, the whole cabinet announced their resignation.

The Joseon Dynasty’s pine tree respecting policy continued to include “planned forestation.” To produce elaborate pottery like Joseon white porcelain, pine trees are used as firewood. The royal family planted six huge pine forests and used the trees in each section for ten years to produce pottery used in the palace. At the place where they exploited the pines and cut them down, they reforested it with young pines to prepare for their pine needs 50 years later.

Pine was important due to its usefulness. It is impossible to construct Korean traditional houses without pine trees, and pine is also used in making furniture, living appliances and farming equipment.

When a baby was born, they weaved gold threads out of pine branches, and when someone died, after enjoying rice cakes and candy and pine needle wine, they were buried in front of a pine grove. Our race has lived together with pine trees forever. It is said that pines are felt through the five senses. A pine tree’s dignity is used as a subject for painting, and the pine wind sound made by the wind and pine trees is full of freshness. The refreshing pine scent’s soft touch with a pungent taste puts pine trees on an aesthetic level.

These pine trees of ours are in crisis. A one-millimeter large insect called “pine bursaphelenchus xylophilius” is quickly moving upwards from the South, eating up pine groves. It is a fatal disease. If affected, every tree will dry out and die. The term “Pine AIDS” shows how destructive it is. On Arbor Day, this disease needs our attention just like planting new trees. The government, although no “cabinet resignation” is needed, has to face this crisis with a special will. Losing pine trees is losing our identity.

Hong Chan-sik, Editorial writer, chansik@donga.com