Tree Planting of Korea's mountains by Japan


Most mountains in Korea were bald. Japan conducted greening projects to restore trees on the bald mountains of Korea during the era of the Japan rule.


Korea is a mountainous country, but most mountains in Korea were bald. Korean people cut trees as firewood for ondols, a traditional heating system in Korea, without planting new trees. Slash-and-burn farmers in Korea burned forest and devastated mountains.

In 1876, the government of Japan sent Miyamoto to Seoul to negotiate an agreement. He described the landscape of Korea as: There are many bald mountains and the distant view is not beautiful with patches of yellow and red.

Zheltkevich, a Russian explorer who traveled Korea from 1885 to 1886, described that there were only bald mountains and red clay. He also described that there were no tree and people used grass and straw for fuel. Isabella Bird, a British explorer who traveled Korea from 1894 to 1897, described that bald mountains were remarkable around Seoul. In addition to records of western people, many photographs show that there were many bald mountains in Korea. A thematic map of forest in Korea published by the Governor General of Korea in 1910 shows that most mountains were bald except for the upper area of the Yalu River

After the annexation of Korea by Japan in 1910, the regional development in Korea became one of the main issues for the Governor General of Korea. Especially, flood control and afforestation were important for the economic development of Korea. Terauchi Masatake, the first Governor General of Korea from 1911 to 1916, gave priority to afforestation and undertook the tree planting project in Korea. Japan planted 590 million trees for 30 years.

Japan implemented erosion control works in Korea, which contributed to restore forest in mountains. The erosion control project from 1933 to 1942 covered an area of 151,028 ha and planted 500,594,000 trees.

The slash-and-burn farming continued during the rule under Japan in spite of a number of efforts including allocation of farming land and employment.

Korea's mountains again lost trees during the Korean War (1950-1953).

Why this fact affects the rightward trend?

Koreans and the left wing insist that deforestation by Japan for the military was the reason of bald mountains in Korea. The fact is that most Korea's mountains were bald before the annexation of Korea by Japan. Under the rule of Japan, erosion control and tree planting projects were carried out by the Governor General of Korea. Most Japanese people do not know this fact and the story sounds fresh.