In response to President Roh Moo Hyun's June 5 decision to continue the Saemangeum reclamation project, civil groups have organized several actions. Following the completion of the 65-day, 305 km Sam-bo-il-bae (three steps, one big bow) campaign, there have been demonstrations near the presidential house in Seoul and at the Saemangeum dike construction site.
Sam-bo-il-bae: For a distance of 305 km marchers took 3 steps and then dropped to their knees and bowed down to the ground, then got up and took another 3 steps and a bow. This Buddhist form of protest, called Samboilbae, took 65 days in cold rain and burning sun. The religious marchers said, "We will unite all the people who work for the sake of life and peace by this prayer and penance." At the end of the march, children sang and played flutes, gongs, drums and guitars to represent the voices of all the living creatures at Saemangeum.
For more on this ritual, go to "Sam-bo-il-bae"
Beginning June 10, several civil groups, including Green Korea United and Korean Federation for Environment Movement, attempted to prevent the closing of the 33 km dike by digging dirt out one shovel-full at a time.
To their dismay, they discovered that the government had sped up construction leaving only a small opening in the dike.
Three children have filed a lawsuit in a Korean court, asking for the sea wall construction to stop. They called this the "lawsuit of future generations" because future generations will suffer from the loss of the Saemangeum wetlands. They say future generations have a right to a clean and healthy environment, and adults have the responsibility to protect it for them.
Despite inclement weather and counter demonstrations from local people, demonstrations continued, and on June 15 culminated with a beautiful performance. About 300 people watched as large blue sheets were placed on the dirt at the entrance of the construction site and a woman dressed in a white hanbok (traditional Korean dress) performed an interpretive dance. She ended her dance by slicing one of the blue sheets with her body - a dramatic symbol of the sea-wall's splitting of the Yellow Sea.
Finally, as a follow-up to Sam-bo-il-bae, six women religious leaders will walk and pray from Seoul to Buan, in the Saemangeum area, from June 20 to July 1.
Saemangeum documentary on BBC World
For further information on the Saemangeum issue tune in to BBC World's Earth Report on July 7, 2003 for the documentary "Dike Hard." This program promises to be an excellent account of how the Korean government has disregarded domestic and international protest about the largest tidal flat reclamation project in the world-- one that will destroy one of Asia's most valuable wetland sites. The area supports 158 species of fish, or 76.9 percent of all fish species in the Yellow Sea, with over 300 aquatic and plant species. In addition, it is a major stopover point for shorebirds that annually migrate from Australia to East Asia. During any given year more than 500,000 birds may be found there, including 30 species of waterbirds - more than any other site in Korea.
More Information about the Saemangeum documentary on BBC World may be found by looking up TV Listings/Earth Report on BBC World.
From Green Korea United:
Green Korea United sincerely appreciates all the letters of support we received personally and those addressed to President Roh Moo Hyun, as we requested. We have added a feature to our Korean website www.greenkorea.org where we include such letters in translation.
NOTE CORRECTIONS : Previously, we stated that Saemangeum makes up 83 percent of the tidal flats in Korea. We have since found out that the number is closer to 20 percent of Korea's TOTAL flats, but 83 percent of those on the west coast.
Secondly, we previously stated that 80,000 birds can be found there in any given year. We have since found out that the number is closer to 500,000. We regret any inconveniences this has caused, and thank Nial Moores of Birds Korea for the corrected information.
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