▲ Meonmulggak, one of the largest wetlands in Dongbaek Dongsan (Photo: Seonheuli website)
Throughout Jeju are forests called “Gotjawal." These forests consist of grass and trees growing on top of volcanic rock. The total amount of Jeju covered in Gotjawal forest has decreased over history due to development. However, the forests have recently begun to receive attention due to people acknowledging their value and significance. Nowadays, there are many trails running through the forests that people can enjoy.
Gotjawal in Jeju are divided into 10 areas according to the flow of lava. Seonheul Gotjawal, which includes Dongbaek Dongsan, is one of them. Dongbaek Dongsan is one of the largest evergreen forests in Korea and it is full of rare plants and fresh fragrances all year long.
Evergreen trees such as ring-cup oaks and camellias are densely packed in the forest. You can see the bright rays of sunlight as it penetrates between the leaves. Massive mounds of stone with trees growing around them can be found throughout the forest.
You can also see small and large ponds. This suggests that at Dongbaek Dongsan, pahoehoe lava began to flow before aa lava.
Deep inside the forest is a pond named Meonmulggak; one of the area's many wetlands. It used to be a place where cattle and horses drank water. However, once the wetland was Ramsar designated, it became a protected area.
Wetlands not only provide a habitat for various organisms but also play an important role in protecting the environment by purifying the atmosphere. The jungle-like forest and wetlands of Dongbaek Dongsan contain a rich repository of wildlife. This is what led to the area's designation as a Ramsar Wetland.
The Dongbaek Dongsan walking path starts as you walk past Meonmulggak. While taking a stroll in the forest can be considered exercise, it isn't the same as hiking or running.
It provides the opportunity to be with nature as you walk slowly listening to the birds sing and looking at flowers. The trees here have a distinct way of life. Some have roots that wrap stones, while others have found ways to take root inside boulders.
▲ Camelias can be observed between January and June (Photo: Seonheuli website)
Dongbaek Dongsan is named after the camelia flowers that grow in the area. However, once you enter the forest, they are hard to find. Some say this is due to excessive lumbering for charcoal and firewood. However, the real reason is that small trees like camellias cannot compete with the much larger trees found in the center of the forest.
Deeper in to the woods, there is a trail that takes you to the charcoal kiln site. Gotjawal forests used to be a large part of life of some people on Jeju. The forests were cultivated for farming and lumber was used to make charcoal. You can find multiple charcoal kilns around Dongbaek Dongsan. People on Jeju used to use a distinct style of kiln and hut to use to make charcoal.
Ramsar Wetland: In 1971, an international convention was formed in Ramsar, Iran, to protect wetlands that have special organisms, distinct geological features, or rare species. Korea has 17 such wetlands with Yongneup Swamp in Mt. Daewang, Gangwon-do being the first to recieve the designation. In Jeju, Ramsar Wetlands include Mulyeongari, Muljangori, 1100 Wetland, and Dongbaek Dongsan Wetland.
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