Bridge ruining a ‘slow life’ paradise

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Bridge ruining a ‘slow life’ paradise


Once famous for its commitment to “slow life” and as the nation’s first local body to ban smoking entirely, Jeung Island is being disturbed by tourists, who residents complain leave trash, cause traffic and smoke in public. By Oh Jong-chan

Bridges are meant to eliminate the space between human settlements and bring people together, but one new bridge on Jeung Island is doing just the opposite, being greeted with hostility from the locals who accuse it of destroying their way of life.

The bridge opened on March 30 and connects the island to the mainland at Sinan, South Jeolla. The island people, 70 percent of which are over 60 years old, once prided themselves on participating in the “slow life” movement, and they complain that tourists flooding the island since the bridge opened have led to car accidents and endless mountains of trash.

“I should be out busy farming, but I can’t even make it out the door because of all the cars that [come to the island] during weekends,” lamented Lee Mun-young, 70. “The farming roads are all being used by cars.”

Lee said he has to leave early in the morning to make it to the nearest village on the island, a 20-minute ride away on his cultivator, to avoid traffic.

“Even if I am a little late, it takes such a long time because of the cars,” Lee complained. “It wasn’t like this before. There is garbage where tourist buses have been, and people even steal the garlic and onions laid out [to dry] in the village!”

According to the local officials, 345,000 tourists came to the island in the first half of 2010, compared to 370,000 for all of 2009.

Roughly 5 to 6.5 tons a day of garbage now appears on the island, nearly three times the 2 to 2.5 tons produced before the bridge was built. The extra trash led to the hiring of two more sanitary workers for a grand total of five, but local villagers agree that there are still far too many tourists for the cleanup crew to handle.

Senior citizens on the island asked their local myeon office to limit the number of cars coming to the island after a 70-year-old man was hit by a car and wounded in mid-May.

Nam Sang-yul, myeon chief of Jeung Island, said the island has plans to give incentives to tourists who visit the island via buses instead of cars, “providing them with island-grown goods at a cheaper price.”

According to the local government in Sinan, tourists may later have to leave their cars behind on the mainland and cross the bridge on ox-driven carts, bicycles or electric shuttle trains.

Residents also complain that tourists smoke freely on the island, which declared itself the nation’s first cigarette-free village in March.

Lee says the tourists make him too “afraid to leave his door open anymore.”

By Yoo Jee-ho []

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