Some 170 hectares of forest equivalent to about 240 soccer fields were devastated by massive wildfires in Gangneung, Gangwon Province that killed one person, injured 16 and burned down 125 homes and inns early this week.
Forestry experts said it could take more than a century for the forest to return to its pristine state.
Wildfires in April 2005 decimated 973 hectares of forest in Yangyang, Gangwon Province. Despite W13.39 billion being spent to plant 3 million saplings over a period of about three years, the forest remains sparse and straggly almost two decades on (US$1=W1,326).
The Naksan Temple there, which burned down in the blaze, took four years to restore at a cost of W16 billion.
And 27 years since wildfires reduced 3,762 hectares of forest to ashes in Goseong, Gangwon Province in 1996, only about 70 to 80 percent of the forest has been restored to its former state.
Kang Won-suk of the National Institute of Forest Science said, “It normally takes more than 30 years for a burnt forest to restore to its former state. Trees need that long to grow up.”
“Even if it looks as if the forest has grown back, it may take more than a century for the burnt soil to return to its pristine state,” he added.
He said it takes three years for fish and other aquatic animals to return to burnt valleys, 13 to 14 years for ants to return, and more than 30 years for the vegetation and wildlife to return.
“The soil will only be fully restored when the eco cycle resumes as animals, plants and microorganisms return,” he added.
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