[EDITORIALS]House a good start

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[EDITORIALS]House a good start

The National Trust of Korea, a local non-governmental organization, has decided to buy a tile-roofed Korean traditional house in the Seongbuk district of Seoul and set it aside as a cultural property, the first effort of this type by a Korean civic group. The structure was the home of Choi Soon-woo, the late art historian. Even more meaningful is that money chipped in by citizens and benefactors is being used to preserve historic treasures threatened by reckless development.

The building, erected in the 1920s, and its garden reflect the traditional spirit of Seonbi, or Confucian scholars. But it has been under the threat of being demolished by a housing construction boom in the neighborhood. The National Trust of Korea will repair and restore the house and maintain it as a cultural museum, the legacy of a historian who left big footprints in the study of Korean art history.

In Britain, where the national trust movement first began in 1895, more than 2.5 million people actively participate in the cause, spending 3 trillion won ($2.4 billion) annually. The National Trust has secured 1.5 percent of Britain's land and 17 percent of its coast line, which it maintains as natural assets. The movement started in Korea in the 1990s and has been involved in various campaigns, including the protection of Mount Mudeung in Gwangju and a rare plant species on Ganghwa island off the west coast. Last year, the National Trust of Korea bought 330 square meters of land in Yongin, Gyeonggi province, to prevent its development and put 264,000 square meters of green land under its protection.

A national trust movement costs an enormous amount of money and requires public donations. The movement faces a great deal of difficulty in Korea, where the tradition of giving is in its infancy.

The National Trust of Korea has a long way to go before attaining its goal of making a list of natural and cultural items to protect and, ultimately, purchasing 1 percent of the country's land. It does not even have enough funds to repair and restore the art historian's house. We hope people support and volunteer for the cause.

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