Forestry and Fishing

Forestry and Fishing

South Korean farmers have always used the nation's forests for fuel and household products, but centuries of overutilization and poor resource management had practically denuded the countryside by the end of the Choson Dynasty (1392-1910). World War II interrupted Japanese efforts to replace the ravaged forest stock and the Korean War brought to a peak the destruction of Korea's forests. After the 1950s, Seoul slowly developed the organizational and technical expertise to save the nation's trees. Despite frequent setbacks, reforestation had proceeded fairly successfully by the 1970s; the total volume of timber had grown from a low of 30.8 million cubic meters in 1954 to over 164.4 million cubic meters in 1984. The density of the woodlands expanded from an average of 4.8 to 17.8 cubic meters per hectare of forest during the same period.

By 1984 over 20 percent of the nation's 6.5 million hectares of forest belonged to the government; most was managed by the Office of Forestry, a branch of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Another 8 percent was owned by local public authorities; 72 percent was privately owned. In 1985 about two-thirds of South Korea was covered by forests. Until the 1970s, reforestation had taken place primarily in national forests; as a result of this situation, the density of government-owned forests was about three times greater than that of private forests. Most forest owners were smallholders with inadequate financial resources to purchase and maintain seedlings. Upon the introduction of the Saemaul Movement, however, an ambitious rural development program launched by Park in 1971, the performance of the Village Forestry Associations--similar to and often overlapping with the agricultural cooperatives--improved significantly. Between 1972 and 1979, forestry agents and village associations planted 1.4 million hectares with 3.4 million seedlings.

Although the fuel needs of most farmers were met by wood from local forests or coal briquettes, the growing industrial demand for timber was not adequately supplied by domestic production. In 1977 South Korea imported 88 percent of its timber, mostly from Malaysia and Indonesia. In 1985 South Korea imported US$538 million worth of wood, lumber, and cork; imports were US$549 million in 1986.

South Korea's fishing industry contributed both to the welfare of the consumer and to export earnings. Although the value-added income from fishing contributed less than 1 percent of GNP and the fishing population decreased by over 18 percent during the 1970s (to 745,000 persons), fishery products contributed 5 percent of the value of commodity exports. Fishery production totaled 470,000 tons in 1962, 1.3 million tons in 1972, 2.6 million tons in 1982, and 3.3 million tons in 1987. In 1988 South Korean fishing households earned about US$10,000 on average.

Most of the expansion of production in the 1970s and 1980s was the result of deep-sea fishing operations. The major fishing ports were Ulsan and Masan. In the late 1980s, the production of seaweed, oyster, and other products of coastal and offshore breeding farms declined, but the catch of tuna and squid in deepsea fishing rose. Fishing trawlers brought in about 250,000 tons of pollock off the coast of Alaska in 1985, a catch that both contributed to the South Korean diet and was exported to United States food processors.

In 1985 there were 90,970 fishing vessels harvesting a total catch of 858,471 tons. Of these vessels, 71,836 were motorized (836,633 tons) and 19,134 (21,838 tons) were nonmotorized. These numbers reflected a major change from 1962, when only 6,085 vessels out of 45,504 were motorized.

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