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South Korean Environment Groups Protest Destruction of Mount Gariwang Virgin Forest

When South Korea launched its bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics it was claimed Mount Gariwang was the only possible site for the downhill competition. However, a coalition of environmental groups, the Joint Committee for Stopping the Destruction of Gariwang Mountain, has recently discovered the Rules of the International Ski Federation (FIS-Ski) allow for a shorter track, under ‘exceptional circumstances’. In a letter to the FIS-Ski, see below, the Joint Committee asks for clarification of the rule and why this was not made known at the time.

These South Korean environmental groups consider they were misled when the Bid for Pyeongchang2018 was put forward and point out there is a viable alternative at a neighbouring ski resort at Yongpyong. They are now refusing to co-operate with the ‘recovery’ programme for the forest. The South Korean Olympic authorities have only just carried out an environmental assessment of the forest, which is laughable in itself given that this forest had been designated by the South Korean Forestry Service as site for the 'Protection of flora genes and forest Eco-systems'. The designation was changed when Pyeongchang was chosen to host the Winter Olympics to allow the site to be destroyed for the downhill event.

Whatever the alternatives, the proposal to cut down this virgin forest, home to the largest plantation of Wangsasure trees, a hybrid Aspen unique to the Korean peninsular, made a mockery of the IOC’s claim that the environment is its ‘third dimension’. It was always an outrage to sacrifice a forest of this quality for a few days of skiing.

Letter to the FIS

Joint Committee for Stopping the Destruction of Gariwang Mountain
71-16 Yulseok-ri, Wabue-eup, Namyangju-si, Gyeonggi-do, Korea
International Ski Federation
Blochstrasse 2; CH- 3653 Oberhofen / Thunersee
Switzerland

3rd April, 2014

To whom it may concern:

We, Joint Committee for Stopping the Destruction of Gariwang Mountain, is an umbrella group comprised of nature-protection civil organizations in Korea.

We have made efforts to prevent Korean government’s decision to build an Alpine downhill ski competition complex in one and only, the largest, the oldest and most diverse, taxus cuspidate habitat in Korea – Gariwang Mountain lying in both Jeongsun and Pyeongchang counties – from being fully realized. As you can see on the map below, the expected slope-construction site includes a vast area of Gariwang Mountain, which has long been designated by the State as ‘Protected Area for Forest Genetic Resource Conservation (the red circle)’.

But when the 2018 Winter Olympics was decided to be held in Pyeongchang in 2011, the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (POCOG) completely ignored this most important fact and hurried into vote with the lawless, absolutely unforgivable ‘promise’ to build a new Alpine downhill ski competition venue in this very Gariwang Mountain.

We recently found out from your official website, particularly from the “particular rules for the different events” in “The International Ski Competition Rules (ICR) – Book IV Joint Regulations for Alpine Skiing”(web edition, July 2013), that in case of downhill competitions, the vertical drop of men’s courses for Olympic Winter Games is regulated from 800m to 1100m, and in exceptional cases, 750m (p.80).

We would like to receive your confirmation about this information. Is this correct? Does this mean that it would be alright to have the competitions unless the ski slope (the difference between the highest and the lowest points) go shorter than 750m?

If this is true, then it means a lot to us. Then it means that Gariwang Mountain is NOT the only available candidate for a new Alpine downhill ski competitions venue. Then it means we actually have many other pre-existing options around Pyongchang area, including the FIS-certified Yongpyong Ski Resort. Then it means that Mr. president of POCOG, Kim, Jinseon, ‘fooled’ the entire country claiming as if there was no other alternative than Gariwang Mountain for the new slope venue, as if we needed a new venue.

Upon receiving your confirmation, we are scheduled to organize our side’s actions to stop this monstrous ‘project’ being pushed forward not only by Gangwon Province and Korean government (that recently nudged Korea Forest Service to ‘lift’ Gariwang Mountain off the protection list), but also by POCOG and IOC, whether the latter has known about this or not.

Looking forward your swift reply,

Rebecca Kim
rebeccakim.asia@gmail.com

On behalf of the
Joint Committee for Stopping the Destruction of Gariwang Mountain

****

Reference

About why Gariwang Mountain MUST BE PROTECTED no matter what

Just as Pyeongchang2018 shows how the Olympic Movement fails to abide by its own standards on the environment it has also revealed another longstanding feature of the Games, land speculation and corruption. Wealthy individuals from major corporations, known as chaebuls, have been buying up land around Pyeongchang over the past decade or more in the knowledge that the Korean Government was going to persist with its bid to win the Winter Games come what may. Speculators include the former head of the Gangwon Province Development Corporation and executives from Olympic Sponsors Samsung. South Korea had already been turned down twice but the government had said it would continue to bid.

South Korea was also prepared to pardon the former head of Samsung, who was convicted of embezzlement and tax fraud, with the explicit intention of advancing its bid to host the Winter Games. Lee Kun-hee, was pardoned so that he could return to the Board of the IOC, from which he had merely been suspended after his conviction, and campaign for the Korean bid.

So far the world's media have paid little attention to Peyongchang2018. It's about time that changed.


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