[FOUNTAIN]Flighty yes, but not homeless

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[FOUNTAIN]Flighty yes, but not homeless

The legacy of Chung Ju-yung, the late founder of the Hyundai Group, seems to decline as time passes, save for one thing. The Seosan Farm, a large landfill in Cheonsu Bay, South Chungcheong province, is getting more attention. The farm created by linking Seosan-gun and Taean-gun with an embankment 8 kilometers long, is 15,000 hectares wide. The area has become famous for bird watching, it is known as a paradise for birds and a place where visitors can observe the greatest number of migratory species in the shortest period of time.

Mr. Chung had no intentions of creating a "farm of migratory birds" when he launched the landfill project in 1984. He wanted to build an industrial zone and promoted the reclamation project to create an artificial freshwater lake to supply water to the factories.

But the area was gradually developed into farmland when the government banned the creation of the industrial zone. A huge freshwater lake, endless rice paddies and plenty of food make the landfill ideal for migratory birds.

Early winter is the time when birds crowd the landfill in the greatest number. The Korean Peninsula is home to 400 species of birds but fewer than 100 species are permanent residents here. The rest are seasonal visitors. About 100 species of birds fly to the peninsula during the winter.

Roughly 300,000 birds gather at Cheonsu Bay. Rare birds, including spoonbills and storks can be observed. It is a magnificent sight to see a flock of 150,000 Baikal teal taking off all at once, painting the sky black. That number accounts for 90 percent of the entire Baikal teal around the world.

There is only one reason the birds migrate -- out of survival. They are moving long distances to find food. Most of the winter birds hatch their eggs in Siberia in early May when the ice melts and buds sprout. They get fat in the mid-summer. The birds and their newborns fly south in November when food becomes scarce and rivers start to freeze. Their flight route is fixed. Baikal teals fly from Baikal Lake to the Korean Peninsula. Another migratory bird flies from the Arctic to Antarctica every year, following a fixed route.

Portraying migratory birds as wanderers lacking fidelity is a narrow-minded view of humans who cannot fly. Zoologists like Choe Jae-chun are annoyed when people refer to the politicians who switch parties in search of personal interest as migratory birds.

The writer is a culture news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Oh Byung-sang

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