There has been a recent growth in demand for leisure activities from the people of Korea, and the level of interest in and demand for eco-tourism were further increased by the Ramsar Convention general meeting held in Changwon in October 2008. Accordingly, the Ministry of Environment is making political efforts to stimulate eco-tourism for people to enjoy tourism while minimizing damage to natural resources.
In order to achieve this, the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism jointly prepared the “Eco-tourism Stimulation Plan” in December 2008 and named the DMZ, Upo Wetland, Suncheonman Bay, and other main eco-tourism destinations in Korea as the top 10 Korean eco-tourism models in 2010. A project to develop core models for urban, mountainous, and coastal eco-tourism destinations took place from 2011 to 2012, and a pilot project to designate eco-tourism zones took place in 2013. The year 2013 saw the enactment of the “Eco-tourism Zone Designation System,” in which regions that are of environmental and conservational value and are suitable for experiential and educational purposes are designated as “eco-tourism zones”. The Ministry of Environment designates “eco-tourism zones” among the candidate sites recommended by local governments, after an expert panel judgment and a consultation with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. Eco-tourism zones will be nurtured in regional units by providing financial and other forms of assistance to the designated zones.
Suncheonman Bay is one of the most successful models of eco-tourism in Korea. Its expansive tidelands, salt marshes, reed beds, and migratory birds create beautiful scenery. The local government at Suncheon chose conservation over development opportunities in the mid-1990s. It attracted further attention when it was designated a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Secretariat in 2006 based on the results of an ecological survey carried out in order to verify its conservational value. It has become an eco-tourism zone by building trails and eco parks and organizing events such as reed festivals, and it is visited by millions of tourists each year.
The Ministry of Environment is working on a project to create eco-trails throughout the country. This project aims to build a network of excellent eco-hiking resources based on the five major rivers, old walkways (roads), and coastal walkways, and create a diverse range of eco-trails in each region. Eco-trails will mainly consist of roads that are easy to walk along, and will take on various forms, including river and stream walkways, old walkways, forest walkways, village roads, field roads, coastal walkways (sea routes), and bicycle roads with outstanding ecological backgrounds. Existing roads will be utilized as much as possible, and minimal facilities will be constructed to ensure eco-friendliness. Moreover, Baekdudaegan, core ecological and scenery conservation areas, habitats of endangered species, and other areas of high conservational value will be excluded from eco-trail routes in order to protect the natural ecosystem.
In 2008, the National Treasury subsidized a pilot project to build the “Toegye1) Path,” which has beautiful natural scenery and formed the backdrop of traveller’s journals written in the Joseon period. The National Treasury has since subsidized the construction of national eco-trails on an annual basis. It will provide 5 billion won each year until 2017 to build a total of 2,500 km of trails.
1) Toegye is the pen name of Yi Hwang, a prominent academic and writer from the Joseon period.
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Last modified : 2016-11-03 22:58
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