CONTRIBUTED BY SHERRI B. LANTINGA
Driving north of Pohang along the East Sea coast, we’ve often passed an unusual sign: “Erosion Control Memorial Park” (or, Sabang). It makes no sense to us. An erosion/geology museum I could understand, or a memorial park, but the combination? In a tiny fishing village? Intriguing.
Much to our surprise, the ECMP is an amazing, under-visited place that we’ve visited a few times now in different seasons. The park quietly boasts many kilometers of paved and well-kept paths for walking or biking; numerous gardens; and an unmatched view of the ocean studded with fishing boats and ships bound for Youngilman Port.
After putting together what we could from the park’s (mostly-Korean) signs with what we’ve learned of Pohang history, we finally understand the park’s purpose. “Erosion control” refers to the varied ways that the region’s hillsides were re-engineered to prevent mudslides; the decimation of forests during the 20th-century Japanese occupation and the Korean War left behind naked hills.
Along the park’s paths are examples of several erosion control methods, including embedded concrete shapes, terracing, rock-lined ditches, and plantings. I can now recognize many of these methods from various areas around Pohang (usually along the newer highways). To bring life to the land erosion story, many statues of working people illustrate the kinds of labor and tools that went into re-shaping and restoring the land. The biggest tableau, visible from the coastal road, depicts several workers high on the steep hillside, shaping the land with pickaxes.
Finally, the “memorial” part of the ECMP honors the economic and political powers behind the massive earth-shaping project. Statues of major players such as President Park Chung-hee (the current President Park’s father) are posed conversing together, presumably about the value of erosion control for employment as well as protecting agriculture and fishing from run-off.
Visitors do not have to be interested in land reclamation to appreciate the ECMP. We have seen young families, groups of Korean hikers, and many older couples along the paths; we have enjoyed watching an older man fly a remote-control plane near the pagoda atop the highest hill. I imagine that Korean school groups take field trips here to learn more about this region’s history. (Note: The park’s exhibition building has not been open during my visits, but this site gives some information.)
The unique integration of art, nature, and economic history in this lovely park is well worth a visit.
If you’re interested in the 20th century forces behind Korean deforestation and erosion, see this article: http://www.academia.edu/4043937/The_history_of_deforestation_and_forest_rehabilitation_in_Korea
An earlier version of this article was posted June 2015 at http://korealantinga.blogspot.kr/2015/06/micro-adventuring-erosion-control.html
Erosion Control Memorial Park
Cost: Free parking and entrance
Address: 88-1 Odo-ri, Heunghae-eup, Buk-gu, Pohang, Gyeongsangbuk-do
Key landmark: giant wooden ship (restaurant) across the street from entrance
GPS Coordinates: 36.163674, 129.397745
Bus Info: From Pohang, go to the Heunghae Transfer Center (bus 100, 500, or 107) then take an hourly “country bus” (no number) and ask the driver to stop at Odo-ri.