Korea's Baekdu-daegan
in the 2000s
How the National  Energy-Spine Mountain-Mainline
has been becoming a Long-Distance Hiking and
Pilgrimage Trail for 735km in South Korea
백두대간  白頭大幹
Results of an environment assessment of the Baekdu-daegan areas within South Korea conducted by the Korea Forest
Service (KFS) and Green Korea United was announced in March 2001, concluding that significant parts of it are either
seriously ecologically degraded or in immediate danger of becoming so; it recommended policy-action to halt further
damage and restore what can still be preserved.

The Republic of Korea's national government then granted the Baekdu-daegan official recognition for the first time in
December 2003, when it promulgated a law (resulting regulations went into effect in January 2005) mandating the
preservation and proper management of "the backbone of the Korean peninsula and the treasure-house of its
ecosystem" (and, it is recognized, a great reserve of forestry & mineral resources).

In January 2006 the KFS announced that it will ecologically & historically restore 215 damaged areas totaling 400,000
hectares
(260,000 on the mountain-ridges and 140,000 in their vicinity) with investment of 1.2 trillion Won (US$1.2 billion) over
10 years.  It also declared that it will strengthen protection of remaining wildlife there, launch "a nationwide drive for love
of the Baekdu-daegan", set up "an inspection team comprising experts from academic circles and civil groups jointly
with North Korea", and make efforts "together with North Korea to be sure that areas with high ecological value, inclu-
ding the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), are designated as World Wildlife-Preservation Areas by UNESCO"  (see article).

Green Korea United held a follow-up symposium in February 2006 on "Is the Baekdu-daegan suitable for a UNESCO
World Heritage Listing?" laying out the vast amount of work that would need to be done to achieve that designation, and
thus "enhance the value of the mountain range".  Experts pointed out that "the deterioration of cultural heritage (along it)
is even worse than that of natural ecology."  They also declared the urgent needs to establish a clear definition of it,
build scientific databases, and build national and inter-Korean consensus on it -- beginning with a public awareness
campaign "to highlight its importance as our nation's heritage", leading to international promotion and recognition
(see article).

The idea of hiking along the crest of the Baekdu-daegan (only the half in South Korea, for now) or at least major sections
of it, is rapidly gaining in popularity -- several books and websites are devoted to this, and more people (mostly Koreans
so far) attempt it each year.   I believe that someday it will become internationally-known as a long-distance trekking
route like the Appalachian Trail, Sierra Crest Trail, the Inca Trail, the Great Wall of China, New Zealand's Milford Track
and so on.  A major info-gathering Expedition along the entire South Korean route was successfully conducted towards
this end by my two friends from New Zealand in the fall of 2007 -- click on these links to see:
Baekdu-daegan Trail Guidebook
is available for hikers and cultural-explorers!
order one now