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[Herald Interview] WFC a chance to share Korea’s unique reforestation tale, KFS chief says

Voluntary efforts and effective policies helped Korea take lead in global forestry

Choi Byeong-am (Korea Forestry Service)
Choi Byeong-am (Korea Forestry Service)
South Korea’s state-run forest authority is keen on sharing its tale of successful reforestation as South Korea hosts its first World Forestry Congress and becomes the third country in Asia to host the largest gathering of the global forestry sector.

The WFC, held every six years under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, is seeing its 15th iteration held in Seoul from Monday to Friday. It is the first time in 44 years that the congress is being held in the Asia-Pacific region.

In a recent interview with The Korea Herald and The Herald Business, Korea Forestry Service Minister Choi Byeong-am said the congress will provide an opportunity for South Korea to share its unique accomplishments in reforestation highlighted by people’s voluntary efforts and the government’s policy support.

The public awareness of the disasters stemming from deforestation prompted South Koreans and local governments to join efforts in raising tree planting rates, he said, and these efforts were backed by additional eco-friendly policies for long-term success.

“Reforestation can never be accomplished by just planting many trees. We must also take care of them until they are fully grown,” the minister said. “Reforestation in Korea was successful because we implemented various policies to protect our forests.”

Before 1970, South Korea relentlessly consumed trees as a main natural resource to endure harsh weather. Slash-and-burn agriculture also prevailed and prevented mountains from housing enough trees to prevent natural disasters from mountains for nearby residents.

The government then provided new settlements and jobs for slash-and-burn farmers, Choi said, which was helped with voluntary reforestation movement from the public. Coal mines were also developed to provide heating resources for households and cut the demand for wild trees from mountains, he added.

“Reforestation does not only involve planting many tress,” the minister said. “The trees must be backed up with long-term support until they are fully grown, which is why reforestation is very difficult.”

South Korea’s successful reforestation story has gained worldwide recognition, Choi says, which has prompted many researchers and policymakers to take Korea into consideration as a research site and pay visits to learn the country’s reforestation techniques.

The country in early years helped geographically close countries like Mongolia and China to help them prevent deforestation, and it has also provided assistance in later years to Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar and other Southeast Asian countries.

Korea’s unique reforestation techniques were even shared with a vast number of countries in Central Asia, South America and Africa.

Choi said his agency plans to take lead in continuing to distribute its superior forest management policies worldwide and help Korea stand as a leading country in advanced world forestry issues.

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s WFC is held as a mix of online and offline events like most other international conferences. Many notable leaders from global agencies, civic groups and governments have joined for the global forestry event.

This year’s congress is centered on living up to its theme of “Building a Green, Healthy and Resilient Future with Forests” by calling on the global forestry community to make efforts to achieve key sustainability goals and identify ways for forests to promote the health of the Earth and its inhabitants.

“The 15th WFC selected the theme containing these purposes and meanings to call on the world’s forestry community to make efforts to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and play an important role to find ways to overcome COVID-19,” he said.

“Accordingly, the 15th WFC will be an ideal platform for the global forest community to gather, exchange experiences and ideas about all aspects of forests, and devise recommendations applicable at national, regional, and global levels.”

By Ko Jun-tae and Lee Kwon-hyung (ko.juntae@heraldcorp.com)(kwonhl@heraldcorp.com">ko.juntae@heraldcorp.com)(kwonhl@heraldcorp.com)
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