South Korea map

South Korea occupies the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula, which extends some 1,100 km (680 mi) from the Asian mainland. This mountainous peninsula is flanked by the Yellow Sea to the west, and the East Sea to the east. Its southern tip lies on the Korea Strait and the East China Sea. South Korea can be divided into four general regions: an eastern region of high mountain ranges and narrow coastal plains; a western region of broad coastal plains, river basins, and rolling hills; a southwestern region of mountains and valleys; and a southeastern region dominated by the broad basin of the Nakdong River. South Korea's terrain is mostly mountainous, most of which is not arable. During the first 20 years of South Korea's growth surge, little effort was made to preserve the environment. Unchecked industrialization and urban development have resulted in deforestation and the ongoing destruction of wetlands such as the Songdo Tidal Flat. However, there have been recent efforts to balance these problems, including a government run $84 billion five-year green growth project that aims to boost energy efficiency and green technology. Efforts have also been made with afforestation projects. Another multibillion-dollar project was the restoration of Cheonggyecheon, a stream running through downtown Seoul that had earlier been paved over by a motorway. One major challenge is air quality, with acid rain, sulfur oxides, and annual yellow dust storms being particular problems. (Wikipedia)

Quick Facts

Land use

Total land area
9,746,600 hectares
Area of forest
63.4% of land area
Area of agriculture
18.1% of land area
Area of permanent cropland
2.2% of land area


50.6 million
Population growth
0.4% annually
Rural population

Economics and development

GDP from agriculture
GDP per person
27221.50 USD

Climate change and biodiversity

CO2 emissions
11.80 metric tonnes per person
Threatened animal and plant species
National Restoration Targets
Total restoration target
6,250,000 hectares
Korea’s Third National Communication under the UNFCCC (2012)

A stated strategy of the forestry sector is to protect and expand forest carbon sinks (p.50).  Species conversion reforestation projects have been implemented in the forests that may have been damaged by pests or significantly lack the capacity to absorb carbon. From 2006 to 2009, species conversion reforestation was implemented in pitch pine forests above 21,000 hectares and will be gradually applied to other forest (p.78-79). 

For the purpose of expanding forest carbon sinks, a Five-Year Unused Land Afforestation Plan has been established to promote afforestation in vacant areas. Also, economic incentives have been provided to those willing to promote the plan. In 2007 (the first year of the plan), afforestation was conducted on 1,051 hectares of idle land. Since 2008, annual afforestation of 2,000 hectares has been implemented and 6,084 hectares has been afforested as of 2010. Annually, 1,000 hectares of idle land will continue to be afforested. After the integration of cities and agricultural areas in 1995, urban areas have dramatically increased and forested land within urban areas has also increased. Reforestation and vegetation recovery in the urban areas means expansion of carbon sinks. Therefore, in accordance with the progress of urbanization, local governments and civic organizations have actively been performing urban afforestation projects to ensure the expansion of carbon sinks as well as the improvement of life quality in cities. The central government is creating urban forests by purchasing private lands, previously public institution areas, and little pieces of land in city centers. The first urban forest establishment project was launched in 2003 and a total of 589 ha of urban forest was created by 2008. Also, local governments have actively been working on urban forest creation. 1,617 hectares of urban forest has been created as of 2010 and urban afforestation projects are on-going. Meanwhile, partnership between enterprise and government will be promoted for urban forest creation by establishing enterprise-sponsored urban forest creation and management guidelines (p.54).

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Country Profiles – NBSAPs, National Reports (5th)
The Fifth National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity (2014)

Based on the ‘2nd Master Plan for Forest Biodiversity (2013-2017)’, the government has carried out a national monitoring program on forest resources, enhancement of the national arboretum, restoration of damaged forest and implementation of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (p.29).

Three Major Ecological Networks in the Korean Peninsula - Baekdudaegan mountain range, demilitarized zone (DMZ), and coastal and island areas - have been established to restore damaged and disconnected habitat patches, which are exposed in a fragile condition (p.31). For the ecological networks in Korea, protected areas will be expanded and the restoration of damaged ecosystems will be reinforced (p.32). There is a target to restore the DMZ and Baekdudaegan areas at 100 hectares/year (p.66).

Korea’s National Biodiversity Strategy 2014-2018 (2014)

Ecological restoration effort allows all of the vital ecosystem belts to have better connectivity, including restoration of DMZ and Baekdudaegan (p.66).

  • National Ecosystem Restoration Plan.
  • Establishing restoration strategies for ‘Promoting Plan of Integrated Strategy for Natural environment Restoration (2007).
  • Restoration of 50 fragmented areas in vital ecosystem belts by constructing ecological corridors.
Other (National Strategies and Plans, Rural Development Programs, Natura 2000 areas, projects, and goals)
Restoration target
6,250,000 hectares
Overview of the Republic of Korea’s National Strategy for Green Growth (2010)

Eco-River Restoration Programme (initiated in 2008) is being implemented in the context of the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project, and as part of this effort: 929 km of national streams, 120 local streams, and 84 riparian wetlands will be restored/reconstructed (as part of phase 3) – riparian areas will be A/R and used for biomass production (p.33-34).

Korea Forest Service website (plans for expanding carbon sinks)

Policy Goal: to promote 6,250,000 hectares of forest land to be acknowledged as carbon sink through SFM by 2022 (with a net carbon sink of 8.75 million tons of carbon)

Carbon sink expansion project system includes: new forestation (urban forest and agricultural sites) and prevention of forest fires.

GHG reduction project

  • Continuous expansion of forestation
  • New forestation
    • Expansion of marginal farmland forestation
    • Expansion of urban forests
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