Someone ought to go to jail for this . . .
Goseong county, which is split by the DMZ on the east coast of Korea, has some of the most beautiful stretches of undeveloped beaches in the country. Driving up the coast to my wife’s hometown each weekend, I often envy the soldiers who get to walk up and down the undisturbed sand on the inside of the barbed wire. It’s only a matter of time before some of these beaches are developed for tourism, with high-rise hotels, garish food stalls, and huge paved parking lots.
It’s happening already, and some of the plans are quite unique. In Geojin, there is Ocean Santeville, a high-priced, (300 million for a 30-pyeong furnished apartment) high-rise apartment going up just a few metres from the water’s edge. (Who was it who built his house on the sand?) At Songjiho Lake, they are building an observation tower next to the lake, and what seems to be a huge camping/RV ground next to the beach. And there is talk of a nude beach coming to the county next year. (No doubtedly complete with hundreds of college boys waiting surreptitiously with their cell phone cameras . . . I highly doubt if beachgoers will be shedding their suits in any great numbers.)
Just south of Banam beach is one of these long, untouched beaches, that is, untouched until a few months ago. I noticed one day that one of the rice paddies was being cleared away by digging equipment. Within the past few months what used to be beautiful rice paddies by the deserted beach have become this, three gaping sand pits growing bigger and deeper by the day. Sand mining is a very profitable business these days, and where better to get sand than from under a beach, right?
Any kid who has played with puddles knows what will happen next. With less than 50 metres separating the big blue sea from these huge holes in the ground, it is only a matter of time (2-10 years) before the ocean breaks through, washing away what’s left of that beautiful beach and the adjoining rice paddies. Not only that, there is nothing in place to keep the sea from encroaching further, and eating away the highway, leaving points north (Geojin, Daejin, Hwajinpo Beach, etc.) without a suitable link to the rest of the country. So much for the “the endless golden sand” County governor Ham, Hyeong-gu is bragging about.
There’s a good bit of money being made off of the steady stream of gravel trucks rolling out of there, but it will cost the government trillions of won to clean up the mess, not counting the lost revenue from future tourism possibilities.
Whoever signed the permit to do this sort of thing was either drunk out of his mind or receiving a fat little envelope under the table. I wouldn’t put either past some of the officials in Goseong. Their office has replaced the old timecards with a fingerprint-recognition device outside the doors so that public officials can record their work hours. However, workers have been seen on more than one occasion leaving early to go drinking, then staggering back at a late hour to record their “overtime.” It’s nice to see our tax dollars hard at work.
Heads ought to roll in the Goseong-county office. . .