A day visit to Saneum Recreation Forest
By Roger Shepherd
It was short notice that my good friend Mr. Ko Ki-yoen called me to invite me to visit the Saneum recreation forest in Gyeonggi-do near Yangpyeong-gun. Mr. Ko Ki-yeon is the new director to the Forest Recreation and Outdoor Activities Division at the Korea Forest Service and a friend of mine since he appointed me as a Goodwill Ambassador for the Yeongju-gun region of the Korea Forest Service in Gyeongsangbuk-do, when he was in charge there.
I always try to obligate my invitations, especially when they are to pristine forest reserve areas that I have never been to before, and Saneum was not about to be refused. Getting there on a hot early June day was a bit of a mission, but this also gave me time to appreciate the lush greenness of the virgin summer Korean countryside. I had decided to catch the subway from Seoul on the Jungang line to Yongmun. It was a nice escape from the balmy madness of Seoul as the views from the train carriage undulated from tunnels; city apartment blocks into verdant green mountains and fresh green colored fields of newly planted rice.
Fig 1. Way to Saneum recreation forestForests attract people with cooler temperature, fragrances, green color and beautiful figures of trees. Sterilizing action (phytoncide) of volatile plants purifies air in the forests and it is good for health. Forest bath is the health-improving activity while leaving your body and mind in the forest, using forest facilities (facility planning), moving your body (walking in the forest), and enjoying yourselves.
The streams and rivers were running clean and much like entering a Buddhist temple I quieted my mind as the train and I departed the thriving city, leaving my urban soul behind me for the peaceful abode of the countryside.
From the charming small laidback town of Yongmun I caught a local bus that wound its way up over the mountains behind Yangpyeong and then descended all the way down to a small rural stop. There I was met by the manager of the recreation village and whisked up the narrowing road deep into the emerald confines of the forest.
It was the weekend, so the forest was busy with budding families of parents and children frequenting the forest and picnic spots enjoying the preserved natural environment that the Korean Forest Service has provided for so many recreational users throughout the peninsula. Today at Saneum forest an enthusiastic group of young aspiring honorary journalists selected by the Korea’s Presidential House had turned up for a guided tour of the forest. I joined the group along with Mr. Ko as we walked around the pleasant trails in the cool shade of the tall trees. Saneum forest is comprised of Japanese Larch and Korean Pine plantations, as well as dense Oak, and Giant Dogwood virgin forests where a variety of animals and plants grow. Also at the site is a modern health care facility that caters for visitors and patients looking for natural and alternative methods of health recovery on top of their medicinal prescriptions that involve breathing and meditative yoga techniques. This procedure is boosted by the mind soothing backgrounds of the pure forests, waters and mountains of Saneum forest recreation village.
Fig 2. Guide on the forest ecosystemtWhilst in the forest, the children followed the information of the helpful guides and often posed tough questions for them. The trails stretched throughout the forest of Oak and Pine as gushing streams of mountain water filled our ears with the hypnotic sounds of nature. I was feeling great to be here, and I soon became one with the forest.
There was one more activity to achieve over snack break and that was a question and answer session inside one of the impressive log style administration buildings in the forest village. Here the young journalists donned in soft-blue colored caps, continued to test the knowledge of the expert guides, and as children do, the questions were direct and without prejudice, often causing moments of hesitation and unsure humor amongst the adults.
Fig 3. Observation on two trees connected through a live trunkAfter the break I had the honored opportunity to meet an appointed Honorary Ambassador for the forthcoming 10th Conference of Parties to United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification to be hosted by the Korea Forest Service in Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do. He was the 12 year old Kim Tae-woo who held great hope and prosperous ambitions for the welfare of his country. The highly educated young man shone bright as the future of Korea as Mr. Ko and I proudly stood alongside him getting photographs. This was to be the beginning of a new relationship for me, and the young Mr. Kim and I now keep in touch on a regular basis, discussing points about the mountains and conservation.
Fig 4. Posed with a little honorary youth ambassador for the COP10 of UNCCDMr. Ko and I left the forest village together where in the cute brusque little town of Yongmun we enjoyed a delicious 설렁탕 before I departed back to Seoul. As I sat on the train I watched the peaceful green slowly turn to busy concrete…but this time instead of leaving my quiet soul behind in the translucent green forests of Saneum, I took my new refreshed soul back with me to the ashen colored confines of Seoul city.