중앙데일리

Locust trees and Japan

The tree’s aggressive root has two sides ― it can ruin or restore soil

Aug 06,2006

Locust trees in South Gyeongsang province.

Here’s this week’s tip on Korean language and customs:

Q:
Some Koreans claim that locust trees found all over Korea were planted by the Japanese, who planned to destroy the Korean soil. Is that historically correct?

A:
Although it is generally known that locust trees, better known as acacia trees in Korea, were introduced by the Japanese around 1890, there are no official records about the intention and many stories involving the Japanese remain part of oral history. It is said that the Korean name, akasia had its origin in Japanese, nise-akashia, which was shortened from the tree’s scientific name, Robinia pseudo-acacia.

The negative notion about the locust tree comes because its roots aggressively infiltrate the surrounding soil. Koreans think it’s a curse to find a locust tree near a home or ancestor’s grave, as it can quickly ruin the entire area. However, the trees are also seen as beneficial. They are planted alongside roads to prevent landslides or to restore forests damaged by brush fire and are considered an important natural resource for their strong wood and aromatic honey from their flowers. The annual locust tree festival in May in one of the most dense locust forests in Chilgok county in South Gyeongsang province attracts visitors from everywhere.


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