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Korea’s green tourism destinations

The first few weeks of August hang at the very top of the summer, making everyone yearn to escape from the heat.

If you were considering a refreshing getaway far from the bustle of the city and indulging in the wonders of nature laid out over the peninsula, a journey to some of Korea’s ecological tourist attractions may be a perfect fit for you.

In recent years, the Korean government has strived to extend its leading green growth initiatives in the realms of tourism, in a bid not only to pass on a well-preserved environment to future generations, but also to cultivate eco-friendly leisure activities while revitalizing regional economies.

This year, the coastal city of Yeosu led the wave of eco-friendly green tourism hosting the 2012 edition of the International Exposition -- set to conclude this Sunday -- along with the adjacent Suncheon Bay, taking the baton with the upcoming Garden Expo 2013. Moreover, the recent completion of the Four Rivers waterways and the designation of Jeju Island as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature added vigor to the ever-growing popularity of green travel.

Suncheon Bay, the ultimate ecotourism destination

Sitting not far away from Yeosu in Jeollanam-do (South Jeolla Province), Suncheon Bay has become a renowned ecological tourism destination even among foreign nationals, who enjoy walking among the wonders of the nature.

The bay boasts Korea’s largest reed fields and endlessly vast tidal plains, which reveal some of the most splendid, not-to-be-missed natural vistas in Korea. In recent years, the area continues to entice voyagers to its ecological park and walking paths surrounded by a mudflat and reeds, allowing their minds and bodies to relax.

The bay, a treasure trove of abundant wildlife and the habitat for some of the rarest migratory birds, became Korea’s first coastal estuary to be inscribed on the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance in 2006 in recognition of its high standards of ecological preservation.

The city government’s ecology-minded efforts and policies towards protecting wildlife made Suncheon Bay a haven of incredible biodiversity (photo courtesy of International Garden Exposition Suncheon Bay Korea 2013).

In 2009, the city authorities decided to remove more than 280 overhead utility poles that used to pose a hazard to migrating birds in flight, following an accident in which a hooded crane injured itself after being entangled in a transmission wire. Ever since, the coastal wetland has seen an increase in a variety of endangered bird species, and a great deal of travelers followed.

The ecological treasure trove where nature and humanity converge will soon embrace an environmental-friendly exposition opening next year, in harmony with the landscape of the wetlands. From April 20 to October 20, 2013, Suncheon Bay will turn into the venue for the International Garden Expo, in tandem with the International Organization of Horticultural Producers (AIPH). Throughout the six-month expo, low-carbon green expo will not only offer a diverse array of gardens, horticultural programs, and participatory events, but also an occasion to share the importance of the Earth and future visions of the city.

The picturesque sunset over the curvy waterway and reed-filled wetland seen at its best from the uphill observatory deck of Mt. Yong is a must-see in Suncheon Bay (photo courtesy of International Garden Exposition Suncheon Bay Korea 2013).

If you are around, you might consider discovering the city of Suncheon, home to a number of Michelin Green Guide’s triple-star picks, including Naganeupseong Folk Village and 1,200-year-old Seonamsa Temple. The savory local cuisine of the region is also something worth exploring.

For more information, visit or .

Travel along the riverside

The waterways of the Four Rivers have emerged as up-and-coming travel destinations since their public opening in October last year. Over eight months, the restored rivers attracted over 7 million visitors. The culture centers around the four rivers, including the Hangang Culture Center which opened its doors this May, have come up as some of the newest attractions that invite passersby to engage in cultural and leisure activities through educational and entertainment programs.

Children ride bicycles along the riverside inside Busan’s Maekdo Eco Park situated by the mouth of the Nakdong River (photo courtesy of K-water).

The Four Rivers have it all, from the eco-trails for all ages to riverside campsites for active outdoor enthusiasts.

The nationwide bike trails provide distinct and magnificent views over the four rivers, blowing the heat away. Cyclists are invited to explore not only the natural scenic beauty but also the cultural and historical sides along the 1,800-kilometer-long paths near the Han, Nakdong, Geum and Yeongsan rivers.

Camping on the riversides is another popular leisure activity. Under the starlit night, families and friends create unforgettable memories, laying down on the ground and looking upon the starry sky.

For more information or to book a camping facility, visit (Korean only).

Jeju offers platform for travelers and environmental experts

Jeju Island is traditionally beloved by all Koreans, from newlyweds and families to avid mountain trekkers and golfers. The living repository of the ecosystem is where its natural environment has been preserved as best as possible, including one of the world’s few volcanic shields.

This fall, the island, recently appointed one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, will host the World Conservation Congress (WCC) in close collaboration with the International Union Conservation of Nature (IUCN), from September 6 to 15.

Over the ten-day event, nearly 3,000 high-level decision-makers and experts from 180 countries will discuss the environmental issues affecting the world we live in today. Under the slogan Nature+, the participants are invited to seek nature-based solutions to global challenges and cohesive partnerships across borders for a resilient environment and sustainable development.

Jeju’s well-preserved oreums or volcanic cones dotting the island offer pristine landscapes (photos courtesy of The National Committee for Jeju New7Wonders of Nature).

The so-called Environmental Olympics bring good news to Jeju expeditionists as well, as the local government aims to maximize opportunities for ecologic sightseeing by organizing a number of celebratory events. Marking the 2012 Tamna Grand Festival held in conjunction with the WCC, the New 7 Wonders of Nature certificate ceremony will coincide with the festival’s opening ceremony slated for September 13.

By Hwang Dana Staff Writer

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