As a result of conflict and war during the first half of the 20th century in South Korea, a large portion of forests were degraded and depleted, predominantly due to excessive harvesting of timber for fuel. By the mid 1950s, South Korea’s forestry regions were less than half of the pre-war era. The government of South Korea initiated a nationwide campaign to educate citizens about the benefits of restoration. In addition, several policy initiatives have led to regaining much of its forest area. As of 2013, the monetary value (from carbon sequestration, water benefits, prevented soil erosion) of the gain in forest area, growing stocks (i.e. density of trees) was valued at US$ 92 billion, which is 9% of South Korea’s Gross Domestic Product.
The launch of the “First National Forest Plan” and encouraging citizens to participate in tree planting projects have made an immense impact in communicating the message to all South Koreans. Furthermore, increasing citizen engagement by promoting slogans such as “Planting is loving the Nation” and “Cutting a tree is a menace and planting trees is an act of Patriotism” has been effective. In 1973, the Korean Forest Service designed and implemented a multi-year restoration project titled “Forest Development Plans for Rehabilitation and Restoration” that targeted restoration via funding, public outreach and enforcement, which have all resulted in successful forest regain. This case study describes actions taken from the 1950’s to present.
South Korea’s case study is an example of success story with relatively high benefits. As of 2013, the monetary value (from carbon sequestration, water benefits, prevented soil erosion) of the gain in forest area, growing stocks (i.e. density of trees) was valued at US$ 92 billion, which is 9% of South Korea’s Gross Domestic Product. From the mid-50s to 2007, the Nation’s forest area has increased by 3 million hectares. This was accompanied by a 30% gain in forest cover within the same time period. Few barriers exist for continued gain in this area, namely the rapid growth in population have led to an increased need for housing, and the lack of biodiversity in the regrown forests have led to issues with pests/diseases in regained forests.