Birds Korea

 Success at Saemangeum must be reinforced

The Saemangeum Reclamation Project, South Korea


Superb news today (February 4th, 2005): a Court in Seoul, South Korea has ruled that the Saemangeum Reclamation Project must be halted immediately, for a full re-evaluation.


The Court based its ruling on the fact that there is no longer a clear "end-use" for the land to be reclaimed. This is illegal under the Public Waters Act that demands that if public waters are to be reclaimed, then it must be primarily for agriculture. The Court ruled that no economic benefits can be expected from the Saemangeum reclamation project because of the anticipated economic costs caused by water pollution in the proposed reclamation reservoir (essential to developing agriculture); because any land created would be unusable for agriculture; and because of the costs of loss of the tidal-flat ecosystem.


The Court clearly recognised the immense and irreversible damage that would be done to the tidal-flat system by the reclamation.


This ruling comes at a time when the Government of President Roh (elected under a promise to be reformist, liberal and democratic) is being increasingly criticised by Korean media, NGOs and ordinary people because of its (stubborn) pushing of a number of development projects: the Saemangeum Reclamation; the building of a tunnel through Mount Cheonseong National Park for the Seoul-Busan high-speed railway; and a massive project to relocate the Korean capital, Seoul, to a new, undeveloped site in the countryside. None of these projects have been properly assessed for their environmental impact - all three are clearly deeply damaging.


We need to add to this internal pressure to make certain that the Korean Government understands how poorly their decisions are reflecting upon them internationally. We need them to understand that potential tourism will be affected if they continue with the reclamation. We need them to understand how badly such disregard for the environment is received abroad


We have written a letter that we urge as many people as possible to copy and send to the email addresses given.


A great deal of work has earned this fantastic opportunity to get the catastrophic Saemangeum Reclamation project stopped - please spend just a few minutes of your time now and help us finish off this project once and for all. Follow the next 2 links if you want more background detail:


Information on the Saemangeum reclamation project in English


Recent court opinions and government responses

Thank you very much in advance for your support,
Nial and Charlie Moores, Park Meena, Kim Sukyung
Birds Korea and David Conlin, Proact

Send an email via the link below to the Korean Ministers for Foreign Affairs & Trade and for Culture and Tourism. Birds Korea have provided a draft text but feel free to use your own words.


Email addresses in clear:

By electronic mail to:

Minister Ban Ki-moon,

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Minister Chung Dong-Chae

Ministry of Culture and Tourism,

Republic of Korea

Dear Minister,

Like many of the millions of birdwatchers and nature conservationists worldwide, we enjoy travelling to see birds and support the protection of important bird habitats.  Places that support birds support other wildlife too, and their natural productivity and potential value to tourism are very important assets to all nations individually and to the world as a whole.

The Saemangeum estuaries in South Korea form one of the most important bird habitats in Asia. The natural tidal-flats and shallows support huge concentrations of many waterbirds, including some of the world's highest concentrations of threatened migratory bird species, such as the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus and Spotted Greenshank Tringa guttifer 

If the Saemangeum estuaries were reclaimed, changed to rice-fields, golf courses or industrial lands as presently proposed, then such species would decline and eventually be lost. This would be in obvious breach of existing obligations accepted by South Korea through its membership of international Conventions dedicated to species conservation, such as Ramsar and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Pushing on with the reclamation project means that South Korea (and the world) would lose an extremely important bird habitat, at a cost to its natural resource base and its international image.

Now, however, South Korea has been given a great opportunity. On February 4th, 2005, domestic courts ruled that the Saemangeum reclamation project has to be suspended and completely re-evaluated. I applaud the court ruling and join many in Korea in respectfully urging the government of South Korea to accept the inevitable, and to cancel this most costly project once and for all.

Through cancellation of the Saemangeum reclamation project now, South Korea would reveal itself to be a mature nation, dedicated to sustainable development, aware of its legal and international responsibilities. Such a country is surely one where many of the world's birdwatchers would choose to visit.

Cancellation of the Saemangeum reclamation: fewer costs - more benefits.

As the responsible government minister we urge to take the only sensible course and cancel this project immediately.


We remain,


respectfully yours,


(Name and address)


Page last updated on:

Proact 2005