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Korea to open foreigner-friendly recreational forest in capital area

ASEAN Recreational Forest to provide fun, relaxation for foreign workers, families

Seo Kyung-dug, chief of the National Natural Recreational Forest Office (KFS)
Seo Kyung-dug, chief of the National Natural Recreational Forest Office (KFS)
As the number of foreign nationals in Korea ― including Asian workers, tourists and multicultural families ― soars to some 1.5 million, the Korea Forest Service, the nation’s forest policy maker, is preparing to open the first foreigner-friendly national recreational forest in Yangju, Gyeonggi Province, next year as part of its forest-based welfare policy for citizens, a senior KFS official said.

“The first-of-its-kind national recreational forest, to be named ‘ASEAN Recreational Forest,’ will offer foreign-passport holders a preferred right to use a variety of recreational facilities, including log cabins and equipment for camping in the woods,” Seo Kyung-dug, director general of the National Natural Recreational Forest Office under the KFS, said in a recent interview with The Korea Herald. The office is responsible for establishing and managing national recreational forests.

“The main targets for the upcoming foreign-friendly recreational forest are foreign workers and multicultural family members living and working in Korea. For a multicultural setting, log cabins in this forest will be built based on the different types of traditional houses from 10 ASEAN member nations,” he said.

The KFS runs 37 national recreational forests nationwide, which are a unique type of state-owned forests in Korea allowed by law to install an array of recreational facilities, including boardwalks, camping zones and log cabins, in a limited area within a forest.

“The shift in forest policy from greening the land to the adoption of recreation came in the late 1980s, when the forest was restored from war-torn land to some extent with the implementation of the national greening project in the 1970s, and people turned to quality of life along with rising incomes.

“The focus for forest policy has shifted from reforestation to using forest resources for public welfare,” Seo said. “Nightly fees for lodging in the national recreational forest are about one-third of the rate for one night in a private condominium resort.”

Thanks to affordable prices for lodging and other convenient forest recreational facilities, the popularity of the national recreational forests is on the rise. During peak seasons, booking a log cabin in these areas is difficult as there are only 800 nationwide. KFS said it will increase lodging facilities as the law permits.

“Preferred recreational facilities have evolved in line with public demand. In the past, facilities for grilling were built as a must in national recreational forests, but more people have requested facilities for healing and rest or child education,” Seo said.

To improve the relatively low recognition of national recreational forests among the foreign community, the National Natural Recreational Forest Office will soon open a foreign language-based website and an online booking system, he added.

By Seo Jee-yeon (jyseo@heraldcorp.com)
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