• Updated 2022.5.11 12:33
  • All Articles
  • member icon
  • facebook cursor
  • twitter cursor
NewsLocal news
A step back for Olle Trails?As visitor numbers boom, some question its negative impact on the environment, privacy of locals
폰트키우기 폰트줄이기 프린트하기 메일보내기 신고하기
승인 2010.10.01  12:17:10
페이스북 트위터
▲ Olle Trail 10 leading to Songak mountain. Photo by Jean K. Min. At right, Olle Project Director Ahn Eun Joo. Photo by Darryl Coote

As the jewel of the tourism industry on Jeju, Jeju Olle has garnered its share of accolades, and more recently, criticism. There has been a growing murmur of reproof from activist and local citizens who worry about its environmental sustainability, invasion of privacy and if the trails are generating as much income as the Olle organization claims they are.

“As of last year,” said Jejo Olle Project Director Ahn Eun Joo, “we averaged how much people spent travelling the Olle in one day excluding airfare and it averaged about 75,000 [won] a day.”

Based on Ahn’s statistics in 2010, 500,000 people will have walked an Olle trail generating approximately 100 million won a day in revenue being pumped directly into the local economy, but Susan-ri town leader Yang Sang Cheol, who overall views Olle as a good investment, said “I personally expected more of a sales boost for local shops when they opened the trail here, but the economic impact of the trails is lower than I hoped. I asked Jeju Olle to design the trail in a way that passes through local shops and restaurants but they didn't in the end.”

Corroborating Yang’s sentiment is Kim Dong Joo, an environmental activist at the Jeju branch of Korean Federation for Environmental Movement, who remarked that “Jeju Olle's economic impact on local communities is not as great as they have publicized. Per-capita spending by Olle trekkers during their stay in Jeju is generally lower than that of other regular travelers.”

Ahn counters this argument by stating Olle “is more effective because the money isn’t being poured into corporations, but going to Jeju locales and Jeju’s actual economy.” She also explained that prior to Olle tourists would come for a short sojourn and leave with the sense of having seen everything the island had to offer, feeling no need to return. “Now with Olle to trek the all the trails it takes 20 days and they keep coming back. It has changed the mindset of tourists from mostly group tours to independent,” she said.

Due to the nature of the trails the statistics are an estimation based on numbers gathered by Olle offices, villagers and stores along the courses that count recites and trekkers, Ahn said.

One of the largest concerns with Olle is damage to the environment sustained by the amount of people traversing the trails. Kim points out that “Songak [Trail 10] is composed of very fragile volcanic terrain and it cannot withstand the foot traffic of hundreds of trekkers every day.”

Ahn said that particular areas on certain trails have been damaged and they are working to preserve those areas by “covering up the original paths that have sustained too much damage and create another path.” She continued, “On the first course there is an oreum [secondary volcanic cone] that needs to be restored in the fall.”

This damage to the environment, Ahn believes, will diminish when Olle’s popularity comes down. “I see the explosive popularity as a temporary symptom… after about two to three years the hype will settle down.” Olle’s goal is to accommodate 300,000 trekkers annually, but if the numbers continue to increase “we are willing to restrict certain courses so people will not be allowed to go there for gap years,” Ahn said.

According to Ahn her office has not received complaints from local villagers concerning the lack of privacy, but the organization does recognize that in a few years, those who were excited about the trails passing through their towns may become irritated. To compensate the villages Jeju Olle has started the One Company per Olle Village project, which connects each village the trail passes through with a company to export their goods and generate more money for the citizens. Currently this project has been established with 12 villages with two more being intergrated next month.

Other ways in which Olle has compensated the villagers is by training them to be Olle guides and accompany tourists along the paths for a fee, as well as provide them with used cloth “to make dolls and profit from selling them to the tourists and Olle also profits from a small percentage,” Ahn said.

The most frequent complaints Ahn said she receives concerns the lack of bathrooms, that the trails are too difficult and that there are too few trail markers, which was one of Kim’s criticisms; “The current trails are not really great for trekking as they are either exposed to harsh sunlight with not enough shades or simply pass by the shores open to strong winds and storms.” Yang touched on one of these complaints when he remarked that “Trekkers often become lost while walking the trail that passes Susan-ri as the road signs are not clear. Villagers have to guide them in the correct direction.”

For Olle “this is not an issue because we are making the trails for people who are ready to deal with that,” Ahn said.

Currently Jeju Olle is combating the littering problem on the trails that many worry about. This presents a difficult conundrum for the NGO because it affects their ethos. Ahn said they have contemplated installing garbage cans along the routes, but by doing so it is actively developing within nature, which was the antithesis of the organization. Instead they endeavor “to change the fundamental mindset that when you throw something away someone else will pick it up,” according to her, by promoting environmental ethics through award programs, though no plans have been solidified yet.

Her other concern is with the rapid expansion of Olle. “We are aware and we are concerned that we are expanding too quickly and from now on we will only do two courses a year,” she said. Initially they had planned to have Olle trails throughout the island, but have decided to only circumnavigate it instead. Once that is complete they will “maintain the old trails, instead of building new ones,” Ahn said.

Interpretation by Chris J. Park

Darryl Coote의 다른기사 보기  
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (
All materials on this site are protected under the Korean Copyright Law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published without the prior consent of Jeju Weekly.
폰트키우기 폰트줄이기 프린트하기 메일보내기 신고하기
페이스북 트위터
60 Second Travel
Jeju-Asia's No.1 for Cruise

Jeju Weekly

Mail to  |  Phone: +82-64-724-7776 Fax: +82-64-724-7796
#505 jeju Venture Maru Bldg,217 Jungangro(Ido-2 dong), Jeju-si, Korea, 690-827
Registration Number: Jeju Da 01093  |  Date of Registration: November 20, 2008  |  Publisher: Hee Tak Ko  | Youth policy: Hee Tak Ko
Copyright 2009 All materials on this site are protected under the Korean Copyright Law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published
without the prior consent of jeju