Go to contents

[Opinion] Upo Swamp

Posted October. 23, 2008 17:40,   


Summer mingles with autumn at the end of October at Upo Swamp (Changnyeong, South Gyeongsang Province). Bulrush, wild rice and water chestnuts, which covered water like a green carpet last summer, submerged themselves by breaking their own golden bodies. Rare birds such as spoonbills, bean geese, gray herons, egrets and falcated ducks flew above the leaves (two meters in diameter) of thorn lotuses, one of the world’s rarest species, infusing life into the swamp. The migrant birds flew some 3,000 kilometers to escape the cold winter of Siberia and northern Manchuria, China. In the winter, 30,000 migrant birds spanning 220 species will create an even more breathtaking scene as they build nests there. Upo is also home to the sacred ibis, a rare bird that China gave to Korea Sunday.

The swamp covers 2.31 square kilometers. During the thaw 140 million years ago, water from the Nakdong River flew backward and created a lake, which gradually tuned into swamp. On the absolutely pure land, untouched by humans since the era of dinosaurs, living creatures continuously repeat the cycle of birth and death. Upo is often called a “rare ecological treasure in the world�where rare plants and animals maintain a perfect food chain. Upo is a de facto natural history museum as it houses 435 species of plants, which account for 10 percent of Korea’s total, and 1,000 species of animals including birds, reptiles and insects.

Watching creatures living in the swamp is like realizing the long forgotten existence of air. One soon realizes that humans are just part of mighty nature and that basic human life is not much different from theirs. Anyone can become a philosopher at Upo, where eternity, the present, all kinds of forms and figures, and freedom from all ideas and thoughts coexist.

The word "swamp" is a metaphor for insecurity in the human world. The swamp, however, is a place for healing nature like the self-purifying organs kidney and lungs. The 10th Ramsar Convention, an international environmental meeting for preserving swamps, will be held in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, from Tuesday through Nov. 4. Korea will be the second Asian country to host the convention after Japan. The first convention was held in the small Iranian city of Ramsar. Eleven areas in Korea, including Upo, Suncheon Bay and Muan tidal flat are registered as conservation swamps in the Ramsar Agreement.

Editorial Writer Huh Mun-myeong (angelhuh@donga.com)