PS 64-98 - The roles of geographical legends for conserving forest ecosystems in Korea

Thursday, August 11, 2011
Exhibit Hall 3, Austin Convention Center
Joon Hwan Shin, Forest Conservation, Korea Forest Research Institute, Seoul, Korea, Republic of (South)

It is desirable to integrate social system with ecosystem for sustainable development, but it is not easy because only social system has a sense of values. Because stories related to landscapes have valuable meanings, they can integrate social system with ecosystem. This study is to investigate Korean traditional stories integrating social system with ecosystem and conserving forest ecosystem services in Korea. Historical documents containing stories and legends related to landscapes and geography of Korea were investigated by periods of Korean history. I also collected the legends of ecosystem services from inhabitants in the local regions by interviewing. The stories were classified into local or national level ones by scales whether those were macro or micro scale of geography.


Koreans have kept the story of Backdu-Daegan, which is the biggest mountain range of Korea. It is the backbone of Korea conceptualized by traditional idea in the macro scale. The story had integrated the social system with ecosystem and had conserved the mountain range very well during the Koryo Dynasty (AD 918-1392), when the Backdu-Daegan idea supported the establishment of the dynasty. During the Joseon Dynasty (AD 1392-1910), the idea was disseminated into the public. The idea had been buried in oblivion by Japanese colonial policy but nongovernmental organizations restored the idea in the 1980’s and demonstrated for the conservation of the Backdu-Daegan. Finally Korean government made the law for the conservation of the Backdu-Daegan in 2003.  The stories of the macro geography also influenced on lower-level conservation such as village landscapes. Koreans conserved the village landscapes very well for sustainability by their legends and established the village groves, where the landform of the village was not organized well under the framework of the macro geography. The traditional village groves have stories, which link organisms to the landscape or link a certain village to another village. Stories about the complement of a shortcoming for a desirable landscape for sustainability of the village play an important role in the landscape complementation. The village community which had legends made rules for the conservation of the common. This kind of tradition helped modern Korea to succeed in reforestation which was recognized by FAO. The 54% of the traditional village groves was for regulating ecosystem services, the other 46% was for cultural ecosystem services.

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