Forests attract people with cooler temperature, fragrances, green color and beautiful figures of trees. Sterilizing action (phytoncide) of volatile plants purifies air in the forests and it is good for health. Forest bath is the health-improving activity while leaving your body and mind in the forest, using forest facilities (facility planning), moving your body (walking in the forest), and enjoying yourselves.
It is an easy method for people of all ages to improve health in casual clothes with good air-permeability and high hygroscopicity. Taking a walk in the dense forest, breathing in or exposing the skin into fresh air with phytoncide volatilized from the forest will clarify and balance the body and mind.
* Phytoncide is a fragrant substance emitted from a tree in the process of growing to protect itself from bacteria permeating into injuries. It includes disinfectant elements and insecticide.
It's good to wear simple casual clothes. Take a rest peacefully or take a walk in the forest and breathe in fresh air and phytoncide and expose the skin.
The best time for forest bath is from the early summer to fall on a clear and not windy day between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
* Coniferous trees such as pine or white pine emit more phytoncide than
I trefreshes bodies and minds, brings composure, and is very good for health. It strengthens functions of hearts and lungs and helps cure asthma and tuberculosis.
A day visit to Saneum Recreation Forest
By Roger Shepherd
It was short notice that my good friend Mr. Ko Ki-yoen called me to invite me to visit the Saneum recreation forest in Gyeonggi-do near Yangpyeong-gun. Mr. Ko Ki-yeon is the new director to the Forest Recreation and Outdoor Activities Division at the Korea Forest Service and a friend of mine since he appointed me as a Goodwill Ambassador for the Yeongju-gun region of the Korea Forest Service in Gyeongsangbuk-do, when he was in charge there.
I always try to obligate my invitations, especially when they are to pristine forest reserve areas that I have never been to before, and Saneum was not about to be refused. Getting there on a hot early June day was a bit of a mission, but this also gave me time to appreciate the lush greenness of the virgin summer Korean countryside. I had decided to catch the subway from Seoul on the Jungang line to Yongmun. It was a nice escape from the balmy madness of Seoul as the views from the train carriage undulated from tunnels; city apartment blocks into verdant green mountains and fresh green colored fields of newly planted rice.
The streams and rivers were running clean and much like entering a Buddhist temple I quieted my mind as the train and I departed the thriving city, leaving my urban soul behind me for the peaceful abode of the countryside.
From the charming small laidback town of Yongmun I caught a local bus that wound its way up over the mountains behind Yangpyeong and then descended all the way down to a small rural stop. There I was met by the manager of the recreation village and whisked up the narrowing road deep into the emerald confines of the forest.
It was the weekend, so the forest was busy with budding families of parents and children frequenting the forest and picnic spots enjoying the preserved natural environment that the Korean Forest Service has provided for so many recreational users throughout the peninsula. Today at Saneum forest an enthusiastic group of young aspiring honorary journalists selected by the Korea’s Presidential House had turned up for a guided tour of the forest. I joined the group along with Mr. Ko as we walked around the pleasant trails in the cool shade of the tall trees. Saneum forest is comprised of Japanese Larch and Korean Pine plantations, as well as dense Oak, and Giant Dogwood virgin forests where a variety of animals and plants grow. Also at the site is a modern health care facility that caters for visitors and patients looking for natural and alternative methods of health recovery on top of their medicinal prescriptions that involve breathing and meditative yoga techniques. This procedure is boosted by the mind soothing backgrounds of the pure forests, waters and mountains of Saneum forest recreation village.
Whilst in the forest, the children followed the information of the helpful guides and often posed tough questions for them. The trails stretched throughout the forest of Oak and Pine as gushing streams of mountain water filled our ears with the hypnotic sounds of nature. I was feeling great to be here, and I soon became one with the forest.
After the break I had the honored opportunity to meet an appointed Honorary Ambassador for the forthcoming 10th Conference of Parties to United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification to be hosted by the Korea Forest Service in Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do. He was the 12 year old Kim Tae-woo who held great hope and prosperous ambitions for the welfare of his country. The highly educated young man shone bright as the future of Korea as Mr. Ko and I proudly stood alongside him getting photographs. This was to be the beginning of a new relationship for me, and the young Mr. Kim and I now keep in touch on a regular basis, discussing points about the mountains and conservation.
Mr. Ko and I left the forest village together where in the cute brusque little town of Yongmun we enjoyed a delicious 설렁탕 before I departed back to Seoul. As I sat on the train I watched the peaceful green slowly turn to busy concrete…but this time instead of leaving my quiet soul behind in the translucent green forests of Saneum, I took my new refreshed soul back with me to the ashen colored confines of Seoul city.
Oseo-san Recreation Village - A place of magical combinations
By Roger Shepherd
Whilst touring distant islands off the west coast of Chungcheongnam-do, I took the time to go visit the Oseo-san forest recreation village near Boryeong. The weather had been disastrous recently with buckets of monsoon rain falling down on the peninsula. I took this as an optimistic moment to see some Korean Mountain during its peak rainy season.
The forest manager Mr.Bang and his assistant kindly came and picked me up at Daecehon train station, and we drove through the vivid green hills of a wet Korea towards Oseo-san Mountain 790m ABSL. Just near the entrance to the village is a remarkable old native pine tree that has sacred value to the area.
This kind of tradition was practiced all over the peninsula during the Confucian Joseon Dynasty period between 1392 and 1910. Amazingly his sixth descendant Lee Sil d.1841 planted a pine tree here and it grew with six limbs into a huge wondrous creation. These days only five limbs remain.
The monsoon rain beckoned exploration, and during occasional breaks in the weather I would take time to witness first-hand the marvelous act of mother nature’s relationship with forest, mountain, and water…the natural sustainers of life on this planet. Mr. Bang and I took to the trail and I fell deeply impressed with the numerous waterfalls that were bulging with pure clean water as it atomized into veils of white spray. The waterfalls amplified the forest with static noise, and occasionally in between the quieter sections, the forest was alive with the song of jubilant bird rejoicing in the tree tops.
As we ascended through the emerald forest flanked by the tumbling mountain stream we came across a small hermitage named Ojeong-am. It was a quaint run-down looking abode with a living area larger than the tiny Beop-dang (Prayer Hall) which contained the effigies of Buddha, and the Korean San-shin (mountain spirit).
An old lady taking the role of Bosa-lim (temple-worker) greeted us and handed me a 6-inch cigarette and a toxic like bowl of local Dongdong-ju (fermented rice drink) which combined together almost knocked my head off. Mr. Bang didn’t seem to mind the potion and as the two knew each other and they chatted easily with amongst themselves in this unique relationship between forest guardian and spiritual dweller. It was great to see the even-handed existence between a new forest culture and an older mountain culture.
In fact sometimes it looked like she was chiding Mr. Bang in a no nonsense sort of way. Mr. Bang meanwhile would laugh it off shaking his head in disagreement at the same time, which kind of formulated into an agreement, because in the end how can an old shaman lady be wrong, we amused? This in turn would lead her to join in with the jovial laughter. Once again I was getting another unique first-hand experience of the religious harmony that exists in the mountains and forests of Korea. I admired how the new descendant, the Korea Forest Service seemed to be taking measures to protect not only the native forest but also to make efforts to harmonize their relationships with the local people whom lived in and worshipped the mountain-forest. The next day when I left Oseo-san I reflected on how I was able to witness first-hand the excellent work that the Korea Forest Service do not only in preserving and maintaining the forests of the mountain, but also in allowing ancient practices to continue as part of the natural and unique beauty of Korean Mountain Culture.
Jujaksan recreation village in Haenam-gun.
By Roger Shepherd
We had been walking for two days on a four day hike along South Korea’s Ddang Ggut Ji-maek ridge on the most southern part of its mainland. The walk had taken us through some spectacular terrain even if our first day had been blotted out by thick mountain fog in Wolchulsan National Park, but the atmosphere of ridge walking along spiky granite ridges with my American client James Daniel had still been good.
Now we were in good weather with blue skies near the small village township of Doam-myeon. The highlight thus far on this ridge had been its highest point, a peak named Deokryeong-san. The walk there was arduous as any mountain in Korea is. We had ascended from the road side up the crusty spine of the ridge that offered excellent panoramic views.
As it was early November the temperatures were mild and allowed us to move freely without the normal inhibitions that might come with the hot summer months. Most of the surrounding forest had dulled off into hues of ashen green. However the chest high grasslands that fill the saddle areas of this particular ridge area in Korea were a golden brown and their puffy ferns swayed in the fresh air giving the mountain ridge a new sensation.
We had walked already twelve or so kilometers and were starting to tire. I had arranged to stay at a nearby Korea Forest Service recreation village called Jujak-san. It was named after the mountain of which it sat under. I had never been there before but knew that the accommodations at these places are normally exceptional. James had no idea on what type of accommodations lay ahead, and telling him that we were going to be sleeping in a forest cabin probably gave him visions of a rustic log cabin with fireplace and shelves full of dusty old cans of baked beans…not that there was anything wrong with this.
Once the ridge flattened out we met a trail junction with a sign pointing down towards the Jujak-san recreation village. The day was nearing an end and we descended down the trail in controlled anticipation. Sometime later after following the signs we broke out of the late autumn forest into the recreation village. Some rather luxury looking cabins appeared in front of us. It was mid week and there was no one about so we wandered a little further looking for the office. On finding the office I introduced ourselves and the staff warmly welcomed us in expectation.
They then drove us back to where we had left the forest and showed us our cabins. From the outside the cabins were that familiar look of timber stained weather boards with modern glass framed windows. There were as usual small verandahs which must have been a pleasure to use during the warmer months. I was pleased to know that they had given us a cabin each which I thought was mighty generous of them. The manager opened one of the cabins and led us inside. I admit to being a little shocked at what I saw. Most forest service cabins that I have stayed in are always in excellent condition, clean and modern, but this one was even more luxurious. The large one room cabin with attached kitchenette and separate shower, toilet, had a huge King sized double bed with large plasma TV monitor on the opposite wall. The floor was shining bright and the large French windows had saffron colored drapes. The whole scene lured a warm light into the interior. It looked very cozy and warm.
I turned to look at James, whom had sometimes struggled to sleep on the traditional, normally over-heated, ondul (floor) style accommodations we had been sleeping in on previous nights, and said to him, "this looks like your room, does it look okay to you?"
James didn’t even bother to comment, his tired eyes were still bulging wide open and his jaw hung lazily, too shocked and exhausted to explain the glee waiting to burst out. After showing us how the hot water system worked, I went to my cabin which was as equally luxurious, and stood in the piping hot shower for a good while. That night I cooked a simple dinner of noodles and spam just to downplay our status a bit.
After a good night’s sleep we had time to check out the local area a little. There was a small hermitage down the road under the mountain called Cheonhang-sa Temple.
We paid a visit and discovered a charming garden like environment that held a strong identity towards a cave grotto and the mountain spirit (San Shin) shrine. The hosts were most kind to us feeding us fruit and coffee. After that it was time to leave and as we drove out to our next start point I saw the nearby Jujak-san Mountain and noticed how spectacular it looked and how much pleasure with options the surrounding area of this forest service cabin facility must bring to its visitors.
If you’re looking to visit an unvisited quiet part of South Korea in the southern area of the peninsula, then Jujak-san would be a good place to bring a special friend or your young family. Its pristine placement in deep wooded forest under granite mountain next to a small hermitage and rustic farming community is definitely the faraway break you need in luxury accommodation.