Protect Gariwong Mountain – Letter to the International Olympic Committee
the International Olympic Committee
Château de Vidy, Case postale 356 1001 Lausanne
Switzerland. Phone +41 21 621 61 11
Dear Madam, Sir,
On behalf of Friends of the Earth International and the Global Forest Coalition we call on you to save the unique virgin forest at Mount Gariwang, which is currently threatened by destruction to make way for an Alpine Ski course at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. We know the International Olympic Committee has made a binding commitment to environmental responsibility in 1996, through an amendment of the Olympic Charter. Yet it is threatening to sacrifice a site of significant ecological and cultural significance for the 2018 Olympic games despite the fact that the Ski federation rules allow for the site to be spared.
The forest at Mount Gariwang was designated by the South Korean Forestry Service as a ‘Protected Area for Forest Genetic Resource Conservation’. It is the site of the largest plantation of wangsasre trees, a hybrid Aspen-Birch, which is only found on the Korean Peninsula. It is also the home of rare yew trees and possibly the oldest oak in South Korea. Conservationists describe Mount Gariwang as a ‘Super-A’ class site. Historically Gariwang mountain has a very special meaning for the Korean people. For five centuries from the late 14th century during the Chosun dynasty the mountain was under state protection during which time it was a ‘royal, forbidden mountain’. However, its special protective status was removed in light of the 2018 Winter Olympics, as one of the Ski courses is being planned on the mountain, which would require the logging of 40 000 trees. The planned ski course would cause major ecological damage of a site that not only has significant ecological importance, but it also has significant cultural importance as it is one of the oldest sacred forests in South Korea. The forests on Mount Gariwang are not ‘restorable’ to their original state, because they are a very subtle mixture of tens of different temperate broadleaf and pine trees. It should also be noted that at Sapporo, in Japan, where the Olympics downhill slope was built in the Aihwa National Park, the Japanese government promised to restore the forest, but after forty years the spruce forest pure forest has still not been restored to its original ecological values.
The rules of the International Ski Federation allow for a slightly shorter course under ‘exceptional circumstances’. Such an alternative course is already available at the Yongpyong ski resort, which is more accessible and even closer than Mount Gariwang to the main Pyeongchang facilities. The Yongpyong ski course is of the length required under the Ski Federation ‘exceptional circumstances’ rule.
The International Olympic Committee claims that: ‘One of the fundamental objectives of the Olympic Movement, alongside sport and culture, the environment is the third dimension of Olympism’.
In this light we strongly call upon you to save this sacred site of outstanding natural and cultural value and apply the exceptional circumstances rule so that the existing alternative ski course in YongPyong can be used.
Jagoda Munic, Chairperson, Andrey Laletin, Chairperson,
Friends of the Earth International Global Forest Coalition