Trees That Please: Some Good WoodsIt sometimes seems as if everything in Korea is ranked. Universities, businesses, even cultural assets all need a hierarchy, from first to worst. Now the Korea Forest Service is getting in on the act. It has judged and selected the nation's most beautiful forests, so you can be sure to know which woods to root for, and which you should leave alone.
The forests were ranked in four different categories － the most beautiful forest along a road, in a village, in a school complex and the one most deserving of preservation.
On the Road
Sycamore Tunnel, at the entrance to Cheongju city in North Chungcheong province, is actually a tunnel created by the sycamore trees that densely line both sides of the road. Full of foliage in the summer, or barren branches in winter, everyone agrees that Sycamore Tunnel is breathtaking year-round. The 1,600 trees were planted in 1952 and have grown into more than just another roadside attraction.
See it while you can － the city of Cheongju is planning to expand the road from four lanes to eight by the year 2005, so the future does not look bright for these woods.
In a Village
In Asan city, South Chungcheong province, there is an old village started by the Lee clan about 500 years ago. Oe-am Folk Village is well-preserved in the traditional style of the Joseon dynasty, and it also reveals a beautiful pine grove. At the entrance to the village stand about 100 old pine trees, and in the village there are many persimmon and ginkgo trees in people's yards.
In a School Complex
Mulya Primary School in Bonghwa county, North Gyeongsang province, offers a stunning forest. The school is home to 528 trees, including some Chinese junipers and about 200 pine trees that are up to 300 years old.
The National Arboretum in Gyeonggi province is considered by the forest service as the most beautiful forest in the nation. The arboretum is also known as Gwangneung Arboretum since it is located in the forest of Gwangneung, the royal tomb of Sejo, the seventh king of the Joseon dynasty. The forest is home to thousands of wildlife species, including the rare Korean redheaded woodpecker.
Remember to book your visit at least five days in advance; admission to the arboretum is limited to 5,000 visitors per day. The arboretum is closed on Saturdays and Sundays. For more information, visit www.foa.go.kr or call 031-540-1114.
by Choi Joon-ho