Leave No Trace – Litter on Korean Mountains

Surrounding myself by nature is a wonderful luxury that I try to make part of my life as much as I can. Living smack in the middle of a city, it is not always easy to feel totally engulfed by the beauty of the natural world. Don’t get me wrong, Busan has great hiking and of course beaches, but often reminders of being in a city are there – noise pollution, light pollution, and straight up litter. Recently though, I was able to get out of Busan for a little trip up north over the Chuseok holiday to visit Seoraksan National Park.

Years back when I made my first trip to Seoraksan, a fellow American expat taught me about the idea of Leave No Trace, it’s as simple as it sounds, take with you whatever you brought up when you go, leaving no trace of your visit. This means clean up after yourself, that simple rule we learn in kindergarten. Don’t leave any wrappers, single use utensils, or even fruit peels (as they are more than likely tarnished with pesticides and are probably not native of the land so therefore might cause disruption to the ecosystem.) This is a rule that I strictly follow whenever I get up into the mountains (or parks, beach, etc.)

Admittedly though, I am not an avid hiker. When given the choice I much prefer to stay near sea level as opposed to climbing up a big ‘ol mountain, but once I have been dragged along on a hike I always love that I’ve done it. It feels rewarding and the views are fantastic.

Seoraksan

Unfortunately, not all of the views are beautiful. On my most recent hike I couldn’t help but be upset by all of the litter left behind by fellow hikers. Feeling affected, I collected as much of the litter as I could and stuff it in the side mesh pocket of my backpack, by the time I finished the hike the trash was spilling over the sides.

Water bottles were a common sight

Water bottles were a common sight

When I returned to my hotel I emptied it all out and arranged it to have a closer look. It seems that most of the trash was individually wrapped candies. (Candy wrappers are also one of the most frequently littered items on my local beach.) If only the sweet-toothed, nature “lovers” loved nature enough to leave no trace. Other items I took notice of were bits of gear that had apparently fallen off mid-hike, a reminder to buy quality when you shop so that you don’t have the problem of your backpack or footwear falling apart during use, and if it does, please take it with you and dispose of it properly.

It is so important to Leave No Trace; I can’t imagine how long all of this might have stayed on the gorgeous Seoraksan floor. Sure, there are probably teams that go up and clean, but wouldn’t it be nice if everybody took their own responsibility and left places as beautiful as they found them, with no traces?

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