The Gangwon Forestry Exhibition 2023 kicked off on Friday around Gangwon Province's Seoraksan National Park, including the areas of Sokcho, Yangyang, Goseong and Inje. Under the theme of “Seeking the Future of the World and Mankind in the Forest,” the exposition showcases the strong connections between the forest and humanity.
The GFE 2023 is the first forestry exposition in Korea. It includes diverse exhibitions, performances and academic conferences related to forestry. The exhibition began its 31-day run with an opening ceremony at the Goseong World Jamboree Training Center, the event's main venue in Goseong, Gangwon Province.
Officials including Gangwon Province Governor Kim Jin-tae, Korea Forest Service Minister Nam Sung-hyun and mayors of Sokcho, Yangyang, Goseong and Inje attended the ceremony. Herald Corp. Chairperson Jung Won-ju, The Korea Herald CEO Choi Jin-young and ambassadors from 21 countries also participated.
“Forests cover 63 percent of South Korean territory, and 82 percent of Gangwon Province is forest, making the province the South Korean capital of forests,” Korea Forest Service Minister Nam Sung-hyun said during the opening ceremony.
“South Korea (is) the only country which succeeded in both forest restoration and economic growth at the same time. ... The Gangwon Special Self-governing Province, sharing this unique trait with Korea, will be the home of state-of-art technology and a clean environment, together,” said Kim, who also serves as president of the exhibition's organizing committee.
Expressing its readiness to welcome guests and having learned from the mistakes of the World Scout Jamboree in Saemangeum, North Jeolla Province, the committee said it expects to see about 1.3 million visitors, including government officials and scholars from at least 16 countries.
“We were very nervous after the Jamboree (in Saemangeum). The Gangwon Forestry Exhibition is the first global-scale event in Korea after (the Jamboree), and so we prepared as much as possible,” said Governor Kim.
Measures include police and firefighters being on site around the clock, and seven food and beverage inspections will be carried out each day at the venue’s cafeteria and food trucks.
The main venue, with the backdrop of the spectacular Ulsanbawi, a six-peak rock structure in Seoraksan National Park, is now open to visitors following the official start of the GFE 2023.
The landmark Pine Cone Observatory was one of the most crowded parts of the venue on opening day.
After ascending a 45-meter-high metal structure, visitors lined up to see the spectacular view, extending from the mountains and forests to the East Sea.
Five exhibition halls at the main venue also welcomed guests under five different themes -- Green Earth, Peace and Forest, Cultural Heritage, Healing, and Forest Industry.
In a bid to encourage visitors to protect and properly manage forest resources, the exhibitions showcase how humans lived with the forest, using it in diverse ways and trying to revive it when it was destroyed by fire and war.
“There was a video about people transforming barren soil into forests after the Korean War, as well as a video about the effects of climate change," Yoon Eun-seol, a middle school student, told The Korea Herald, discussing the Green Earth Hall.
The Green Earth Hall is a large-scale room with screens playing audiovisual content on three sides.
The content includes audiovisual art of nature and realistic footage about aggravating global warming which concludes: The forest is the only solution for the climate crisis.
“I learned how climate change developed and how serious it is. The video was informative,” Yoon added.
There were also groups of foreign nationals enjoying the exhibitions.
“Until now, I have seen three exhibitions. All of them are interesting and I just finished (visiting the Forest Industry Hall),” Krishantha Bopage, who works at a local council in Sri Lanka, said to The Korea Herald.
The Forest Industry Hall consisted of booths of local businesses selling a wide array of forest products, from food such as mushrooms and honey to gadgets for processing timber.
“There are shops selling food from the woods and there are many of them that we are not using in Sri Lanka, though there are many woods at home. It is very interesting,” he added.
Other events including Korean traditional music performances are projected to take place at the main venue in line with the exhibitions to entertain visitors.
Outside of the main venue, there are 20 auxiliary venues across Sokcho, Goseong, Inje and Yangyang, offering various experience programs and local festivals.
Detailed information about the program schedule and more can be found on the Gangwon Forestry Exhibition 2023 official website.