Course:FRST270/Wiki Projects/Community Forestry in South Korea

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The Development of Mountain Village in South Korea: a case study in Gyeonggi Province

This case study examines forest management programs in mountain villages in Gyeonggi Province. Firstly, I will explain the origin of Mountain Village Development Projects by briefly introducing the development of forestry in South Korea (Historical background). Following that, the definition and characteristics of mountain villages, Tenure arrangements, affected & interested stakeholders will be provided. In the discussion part, the advantages and disadvantages of the existing programs for developing mountain villages will be covered, and the Inter-Korean forest cooperation in this area will also be briefly discussed. Even though it is interesting and of great value to further explore the how relevant organizations and regulation bodies co-managed the overlapping forests, articles or reports about the impacts on local-level were hard to find, likely due to its politically sensitives.


What is Mountain Villiage

According to the definition made by Korea Forest Service, mountain villages are defined as villages that are located in deep mountain or surrounded by lots of trees.[1] It is usually the case that mountain villages have low level of industrialization and low population density, suffered from problems like aging population and workforce shortage. Therefore, villagers are likely to struggle on the poverty line and have poor living conditions, which turn into a vicious circle[2].

General Information of the Examined area

The Korean Peninsula lies in the Northeast Asia, boarding China and Russia, and the whole peninsula is surrounded by sea on three sides

Map of Korean Peninsula

(Yellow Sea, Korea Strait and Sea of Japan). South Korea is located in the south of the Korean Peninsula, tanking up approximately 45% of the Korean peninsula, with nearly 70% of its terrain is mostly mountainous[3] , and the earliest use of forestry resources can be traced back to B.C[4]. As a consequence, Forestry, citizen's livelihoods and the development of the country are closely related. By year, the forestry alone in South Korea contributes to about 9% of the GDP (1.17024 trillion U.S. dollars).

The examined province—Gyeonggi Province(also known as Gyeonggi-do) is the politically important area in Korea where the capital city—Seoul is located, and it is also the most populous province in South Korea, with a population of more than 12 million in 2014[5]. According to the plan of Mountain Village Development Projects (MVDPs), 19 mountain villages are expected to be built by 2009 and the government would invest 21.339 billion Korean won (about 19.632 million U.S. dollars) on mountain villages in order to support their development, build up production facilities and improve the livelihoods of villagers. The following table shows some of the mountain villages and their location in Gyeonggi Province. [6]

Name of Mountain Village Location Non-timber Products
Seoksan-ri Village Danwol-myeon, Yangpyeong-gun endemic honey, deodeok
Soemongni Village Gwangam-dong, Dongducheon-si fatsia, Gorosoe sap, deodeok, endemic honey
Baekdun-ri Village Buk-myeon, Gapyeong pyogo mushroom, Gorosoe sap
Dowon, Sillon-ri Village Cheongwonmun, Yangpyeong-gun deodeok
Gaekhyeon-ri Village Jjeokseong-myeon, Paju-si wild grapes, pyogo mushroom
Jurok-ri Village Geumsa-myeon, Yeoju wild edible plants
Myeongdal-ri Village Jeokseong-myeon, Paju-si pyogo mushroom, wild grapes

The Development of Forest Polices

The development of forest policies in South Korea has experienced three periods. There are different points of emphasis and features at each period. Additionally, the government of Kora also carried some important projects and plans that facilitate the management of forests and the improvement of mountain villages.

Three Main Periods

Period I: Post-War Forestland Recovery and Wood Supply (1953–1972)

Logo Korea Forest Service

South Korea at this time focused on post-war reconstruction after the Korean war. During this period, the increase demand for food forced the authorities to clearing more lands for agricultural purpose by sacrificing forestland. In order to prevent forestland from further degradation, the government of South Korea enacted policies such as The Forest Product Control Act (Appendix) in 1961 and The Abolishment of Slash-and-Burn Fields Act in 1966 to regulate the exploitation of resources from mountain areas and ban so called "slash-and-burn cultivation" in some area. In 1961, the Forest Law was passed to standardize the utilization of forest resources and the management of forestland[7]. In 1967, the the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) established the Korea Forest Service to help the county effectively carry out forest laws and policies.

Period II: Forest Rehabilitation (1973–1997)

In order to deal with social problems resulted from deforestation, National Forest Development Plans (NFDPs) was stared. This plan included three phases. The first phase (from 1973 to 1978) successfully encouraged public participation in restoring denuded areas with fast-growing trees[7]. Besides, in order to entirely prohibit slash-and-burn cultivation, KFS provided money, lands and houses to compensate those who voluntarily give up slash-and-burn lands, successfully restoring forests while avoiding serious social problems. The second and third phase was operated from 1979 to 1987 and 1988 to 1997 respectively. The following phases were mainly focusing on diversify the management of forests, developing commercial forests, improving forestry-related infrastructures and etc[7].

Period III: Sustainable Forest Management (1998–2013)

During this period, the orientation of forest polices was shifted to setting up sustainable forest management (SFM) and adopting transnational polices

Increased growing stock by year

[7]. Meanwhile,the authorities continued the fourth (1998-2007) and the fifth (2008-2017) parts of NFDP. The primary focus is no longer developing economy, policy makers give top priority to exploring alternative functions, such as recreational function, of forests. They come out several key approaches to achieve the goals in this period. Firstly, the management of forests should be integrated and the alternative functions of various forest resources should also be valued and explored. Integrated management means that the forest restoring in South Korea should not only based on single value, different dimensions (social, economic, and cultural) of forest related issues and values should be combined[8]. Secondly, the forestry should find ways to use forest resources Sustainably. Besides, promoting public benefits from green spaces and focusing on transnational cooperation were also highly evaluated[7].

Important Projects and Plans

National Plantation

Suffering from wars, illegal logging and shifting cultivation, the forests on South Korea were badly degraded. However, demands for energy and food are continually increasing due to the fast growing population. As a result of this, the authorities encouraged several national-wide plantation activities. Fast-growing tree species such as Pinus rigida and Populus spp were widely planted[9]. It is worth mentioning that pine nuts are now a important food and income source for mountain villagers in Korea[10].

Mountain Village Development Projects (MVDPs)

In order to improve the living conditions of disadvantaged remote mountain villages, the government of Korea in 1995 passed MVDPs which focus on providing financial and social supports for poor villages. The villages built by MVDPs can be further divided into four categories based on the features of each area: vacation–linked mountain village, forest–income creating mountain village, farming–forestry combined mountain village, and comprehensive development mountain village[11]. The funds provided by MVDPs are also distributed into the following three fields: building basic production facilities and industrial infrastructures, diversifying income sources, and promoting living conditions.

MVDPs in Gyeonggi-do has initiated Seoksan–ri Danwal–myeon Yangpyeong–gun in 1996[12]. Taking mountain villages in Gakhyeon–ri as an example, the MVDPs in this area can be divided into two projects: assistance project and financial project. Assistance project focuses on the construction of production facilities and infrastructures like community and roads that can improve the communication and facilitate economic activities. As to the financial project, it mainly assist the development of income sources (such as developing ecotourism) and renovate houses[11]. The following table retrieved from study made by Hag Mo KANG and Katsuhisa KOHROKI provides more details about the facilities built under MVDPs in some counties in Gyeonggi-do. Overview of  facilities constructed under the MVDPs

Tenure arrangements

The ownership of forests in South Korea can be divided into three parts: national forest, public forest and private forest. Public forest refers to forest that is under control of province or county. The way that Mountain villages participate in forest management is similar to Joint Forest Management (JFM) program in India. In India, forest-depend communities and local governments reached agreement on the utilization of forest resources, the income distribution, accessibility to forests and other issues[13]. The following case will further explain how this JFM works between mountain villagers near the Seoul National University (SNU) forest and SNU management office.

Maple Sap Management in SNU Forest

Villagers near the SNU forest collects sap from maple by practicing their traditional knowledge in early spring in order to attract visitors, developing ecotourism business for their community[14]. This traditional activities has been carried by villagers for several generations. However, the increase demand for maple sap can lead to the over-exploitation of sap, damaging the health of forests. SNU Forest Management Office, therefore, regulates and issues permits and use fees to collecting sap in SNU forest. Only villagers that have lived there for generations are allowed to be a membership of so called "collection group". Villagers in collection group are allowed to enter the forest and collect certain amount of sap for their community[14]. Through this JFM, not only mountain villagers' tradition are well preserved, but also their income from NTFPs is guaranteed and increased.


Affected Stakeholders

Affected Stakeholders Main relevant objectives Relative power
Mountain villagers Marinating and improving their livelihoods Low-medium

Interested Stakeholders

Interested stakeholder Main relevant objectives Relative power
Korea Forest Service Supervision of related forestry program High
IMF Lowering unemployment rates Medium-high
Forest for Life The implementing agency of IMF Medium-high


Overlapping Ownership

Even though many facilities were constructed under the MVDPs, few of them worked effectively and meet the exception in terms of increase income among villagers in community, and villagers were not favor to the project[11]. This is mainly resulted fromthe overlapping ownership over land and facilities. To be more specific, some facilities were constructed on stat-owned land but managed by individuals or jointly managed by communities. This overlapping ownership increases difficulties on the long-term maintenance of facilities, cooperation between households and communities, and profit distribution.

Potential Threats to Conservation

It is widely acknowledged that mountain villages are of great cultural and social values. For example, the groves in some villages protects villagers and their communities from impairs both physically and psychologically[15], and their cultural heritages can add extra religion and cultural values to the products they produced, which can increase the profit they made from timber and Non-timber resources. However, these activities may have undesirable outcomes. For instance, the increased number of tourists is likely to force villages to take up more lands to build restaurants and hotels, which seems to collide with the conservation purpose. Another example is the demand for fuelwood. Villagers from nearby villages usually planted Korean red pine which is a fast-growing tree species[14]. Such monoculture plantations lowers the biodiversity of forests.

Lack Workforce and Low Income

Many mountain villages are suffering from the shortage of workforce. Because of the poor conditions and lacking job opportunities, young people are more likely choose to migrate to cities, living the elders in villages. Even though MVDPs has successfully constructed and refurbished facilities in villages, there is no enough people to participate in the development of villages. Apart from that, the aggravating trend of aging population in mountain villages brings negative impacts to the development. In Gapyeong–gun, the average age of householder reached 54 years old in 2010[10]. Survey showed that the profit made by those newly constructed facilities is barely at break-even[11]. Those factors work together, forming a creating a positive feedback loop and making situation worse.


Inter-Korea Cooperation

Due to the location of Gyeonggi Province, some forestand overlaps with the North Korea. Therefore, it is inevitable for governments from both sides to cooperate with each other in some forest related issues, and it is unavoidable to have conflicts during the cooperation because two countries have different political structures and perspectives toward the development of forests. In North Korea, all the lands are owned by the states[16], forest policies in north mainly emphasize state's regulations control over lands rather than focus on provide supports for forest management[17]. Despite those ideological difference, two countries still achieved many agreements and signed ordinances on regulating forest issues on the Korean Peninsula, and carry out some local-level cooperation activities in the border provinces. Gangwon Province, for example, takes more responsibility on disease control, construing nurseries for reforestation by providing orchards and technology[18]. However, reports or news about the engagement of communities in cooperation activities are hard to find.

Overview of MVDPs

The government Korea has made efforts to improve the development of mountain villages. Many facilities were constructed to achieve the goals of MVDPs. However, Neither MVDPs and its following plan (e.g. Mountain Village Promotion Plan) has reached the desired goal effectively and change the poverty and backwardness in long-terms. In my opinion, governments pay too much attention on the construction of infrastructure and ignore the facts like aging population and Population loss. To truel address the concerns of poverty and backwardness of mountain villages, policy makers should focus on creating more job opportunities on those communities, so that the shortage of manpower can be released and the further development can be achieved.


  1. (n.d.). Retrieved from Korea Forest Science:
  2. Choi, S. I., Kang, H. M., Kim, H., Lee, C. H., & Lee, C. K. (2016). A measure for the promotion of mountain ecological villages in South Korea: focus on the national mountain ecological village investigation of 2014. SpringerPlus, 5, 589.
  3. (n.d.). Retrieved from Korea Forest Service:
  4. (n.d.). Retrieved from Korea Forest Service:
  5. Gyeonggi Province. (2017, December 2). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 13:26, December 4, 2017, from
  6. (n.d.). Retrieved from Korea Forest Service:
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Park, M., & Lee, H. (2014). Forest Policy and Law for Sustainability within the Korean Peninsula. Sustainability, 6(8), 5162–5186.
  8. Integrated policy for forests, food security and sustainable livelihoods. (n.d.).
  9. Lee, D. K., & Lee, Y. K. (2005). Roles of Saemaul Undong in reforestation and NGO activities for sustainable forest management in Korea. Journal of Sustainable Forestry, 20(4), 1-16.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Kang, H. M., Lee, S. H., Kim, H., & Sato, N. (2010). Study on gathering and production structure of pine nuts in Korea - Centering on Gapyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do and Hongcheon-gun, Gangwon-do. Journal of the Faculty of Agriculture, Kyushu University, 55(2), 403–410.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Kang, H. M., & Kohroki, K. (2008). A study on the mountain village income increase project - Focused on the Mountain Village Development Projects of Gyeonggi Province in Korea -. Journal of the Faculty of Agriculture, Kyushu University, 53(2), 563–568.
  12. Gyeonggi province. 2007 Plan for Mountain Village Development Projects and the Results
  13. Menzies, N. K. (2007). Our Forest, Your Ecosystem, Their Timber. New York: Columbia University Press.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Youn, Y. C. (2009). Use of forest resources, traditional forest-related knowledge and livelihood of forest dependent communities: Cases in South Korea. Forest Ecology and Management, 257(10), 2027–2034.
  15. Kim, I.-A., Youn, Y.-C., 2005 conditions for sustain able community forests: evidence from 17 village groves in Korea. In: Proceedings of the IUFRO World Congress 2005
  16. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010; Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations: Rome, Italy, 2010. Available online: (accessed on 5 August 2014).
  17. Park, M., & Lee, H. (2014). Forest Policy and Law for Sustainability within the Korean Peninsula. Sustainability, 6(8), 5162–5186.
  18. Park, M. S. (2015). Inter-Korean forest cooperation 1998-2012: A policy arrangement approach. Sustainability (Switzerland), 7(5), 5241–5259.
Seekiefer (Pinus halepensis) 9months-fromtop.jpg
This conservation resource was created by Course:FRST270.