Korean mountains have a friend in this Canadian
|Shawn Morrissey, a 28-year-old Canadian writer, picks up garbage on Mount Bukhan, Seoul, in October. Morrissey is president of the Korean Mountaineering League. Courtesy Shawn Morrissey|
For many Koreans, yesterday’s United Nations International Mountain Day is a once-a-year reminder of the importance of Mother Nature that is sometimes overlooked the other 364 days of the year.
But for a small group of mountain-loving foreigners living in Korea, however, it was a chance to promote their year-round efforts to protect Korean mountains and encourage Koreans to join them.
Around 20 foreigners, along with some Koreans, gathered at Mount Bukhan in northern Seoul Sunday to celebrate Tuesday’s mountain day, according to Shawn Morrissey, the organizer of the event.
The event included open-air presentations by six people. The topics centered around the ecology of the Korean mountains.
Morrissey, a 28-year-old Canadian, said he organized the event mainly to raise public awareness of the necessity of mountain protection ahead of the UN-designated day.
The author of two books ― one on ecology and the other his poems ― Morrissey said the day was to “mark their place in the protection of mountains.”
In 2005 Morrissey founded the Korean Mountaineering League, a nonprofit group dedicated to the ecological preservation of Korea’s highlands. The establishment of that NGO was a first for a foreigner. It isn’t glamorous ― one of their jobs is picking up trash in the mountains.
“It’s very hard and it’s dirty job, but someone has to do it,” Morrissey said.
About 20 members of the club, mostly expats, go to mountains across Korea on the weekends to pick up garbage littered on hiking trails. They bring the garbage out and dispose of it properly.
It seems like a daunting and endless task for such a small group of people, and Morrissey is well aware of that. But he says it is better than doing nothing.
“Most people now have at least a subconscious knowledge that we need to do more to protect the environment, and if you want change, you have to take action and make that change happen,” he said.
“What we are doing is not that smart. We don’t realistically believe that we can pick up all the trash, but it’s much wiser to be part of the solution.”
Picking up garbage is, in fact, just one part of the club’s activities.
“Off field we try to focus on education ― that is our primary focus,” he said.
That education is done through the club’s Web site (www.kmleague.org) as well as in the mountains, Morrissey said.
“When we are in the mountains, people who see us doing the job, especially Koreans, are very inspired and say they won’t litter,” he said. “Just by seeing us do what we do, they feel the need for change.”
Morrissey believes in the broader message that the simple task communicates, even though he realizes that careful stewardship of the earth is an endless cycle.
“The problem for me is that people think it won’t make any difference, but it will. It will make a difference,” he said.
Morrissey came to Korea in 2000 from his home in Newfoundland, Canada. Once here, he discovered the unique attraction of Korean mountains.
“In a physical sense, the Korean mountains are very different from other mountains that I’ve seen. For example, the Rocky Mountains in Canada are very big and very vast. Korean mountains are not very high, but they are very craggy. They have a physical appeal about them,” he said.
“In an emotional and spiritual sense, Korean mountains seem to have a special attractive energy. That could be one reason why I’ve chosen to stay in Korea, why I continue to be attracted to the mountains.”
By Moon Gwang-lip Staff Reporter [firstname.lastname@example.org]