Environment, Korea, Streams, Creeks & Rivers, Urban Walking
Comments 29

Dirty, Dirty Korea

Around the middle of last week we got some decent rain, and Daecheong Creek, down here in Jangyu where it widens and levels out after its carefree tumble down the gullies of Bulmo-San, roared with an uncharacteristic wildness.

On Wednesday morning I took some bones up to my poor sodden dogs, something to help them pass the day in their wretched kennels, and arrived at work utterly soaked thanks to the deluge, the puddles, and the thoughtful drivers on the mountain road.

After school I rushed down to the creek to find it reassuringly alive and defiant:

The Lower Daecheong Comes to Life

The Lower Daecheong Comes to Life

The rain was gone in a day or so; the rapids surging through the heart of town subsided…


Swollen Daecheong Creek & shrunken canine

..and the skies cleared:

After the Rain: Dusk Along the Daecheong

After the Rain: Dusk Along the Daecheong

But Wednesday night found me hiking up the mountain road again, a good excuse to visit the dogs and climb further to the Jangyu Cascades. I knew they’d be showing off some renewed vigour, and I wasn’t disappointed:


My Backyard Pool — Selectively Framed

No, I wasn’t disappointed — I was crushed.

I told myself I would be more honest with my photos this year. Although I’ve ranted and railed about litter (and outright garbage) in Korea more than once on TGTW, there’s an almost irresistible force when I size up a shot to present a sliver of nature the way I want it to be.

The way I wish it was.

More often than not, I’ve obeyed the urge, framing or cropping or even just selecting subjects to show the outdoors in the most, well, flattering way. Or I take the nasty shots for myself but share the pretty ones, views like this…


How It Should Be

..or this…

Beauty below the main falls

Beauty below the main falls

or this:

Just Above the Main Falls

Just above the main falls

All those were taken at dusk on Wednesday, or perhaps on Thursday or Friday, when I returned — it was a busy week. And on the one hand, the creek and the falls were as enchanting as ever:


Know what would enhance this scene? Beercans.

But on the other…

This was as far as I got on Wednesday before I ran out of light, the descending ramps of cascades below the main waterfall. There was a bit of trash here, but no more than usual:


That’s better

On Thursday it was a different story.

I thought it was bad enough a month ago when my hike up towards the headwaters saw me walking into this delightful scene:


It adds life

I don’t like starting a hike in a state of rage and loathing — it screws with the ambience and the meditative calm I kinda enjoy. But I set to work lugging all the crap to the road before continuing, and that cheered me a tad.


Ready for an ocean voyage

You know what freaked me out the most about all this shit? The discarded baby junk: toys, nappies (diapers), even a baby blanket. I mean, it’s bad enough any adult would do this, it’s bad enough such adults are allowed to breed — but to do it with your kids watching? 


“Well, it says ‘disposable’ on the pack!”

I’ve got this theory that water attracts idiots (what can I say, I’ve walked this creek and its environs dozens of times). Something primal and moronic bubbles to the surface when you put certain humanoids next to a lake, pool, river or ocean:

The Mind Boggles

Demonstrating the Correct Use of Chopsticks

Regrettably, there is a disproportionate number of such humanoids in Korea. I run into their leavings all over the bloody place.

This was the scene at the main falls when I returned on Thursday:


“Honey, I have a feeling we’ve forgotten something…”

And on the other side:

Leave No Trace - of any intelligence

Leave No Trace – of any intelligence

A staggering amount of garbage — more toys and disposable nappies, discarded clothing, beer cans, bottles and food trash — adorned the pool edge…


Ass Fresh, Flavour of the Outdoors

..and the rocks above the falls:

How Forgetful of Me

How Forgetful of Me

Picnic spoils glowed in the shadowy fringes:


Glories of a Great Civilisation

It was almost dark, too late to clean up. I have a policy of removing trash when possible after photographing it, so I decided to make a third trip on Friday night with some garbage bags.

Long before I reached the falls after a five- or six-mile hike from Hell Skool, I could hear the shrieking, simian buffoonery of a new pack of nature lovers. Lots of cars were parked on the road. A dozen teens — high schoolers or university students — with vast quantities of throwaway crap had taken over the pool below the falls.

I climbed above the waterfall but didn’t linger — now wasn’t the time to be the local garbage policeman.

The Next Wave

The next wave, extreme right

Thing is, this is my backyard. I count myself lucky I ended up scoring a school and apartment so close. Early in the day, before it turns into this, it’s a special place, one of those places that helps keep me going.

Maybe the time will come when the rivers and beaches and wild (or at least wilder) corners of Korea get the stewards they deserve; for now I hope this post and others like it will shame the odd Korean reader into doing something to save what’s left.

Where there’s shame, there’s hope.

But it’s going to take a while. Some of yesterday’s garbage had indeed been removed — to be dumped on the roadside above the creek:


Now, THAT’S what I call cleaning up

And just that morning, a mile or so downstream, I’d found this cheerful addition to the creek bed a few minutes from my place:

It could happen to anyone

It could happen to anyone

I heaved the thing (seemingly quite new) to the bank, and trust me, it was heavy. It would’ve taken two people to hurl it out there. Blows my mind that spoiled and affluent children, who want for nothing and who you’d think would relish any contact with what little remains of Nature here, could grow up with such casual contempt for their own backyard.

Shame on you, Korea.

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote



  1. It seems that there are dirty slobs everywhere. Thank you for making it better! Maybe more people will see you clean up and learn from your example.

    • I hope so! I make a point of photographing really egregious litter in full view of passersby. Maybe if people see this kind of thing through an outsider’s eyes it will make a small difference in how they see their country.

  2. Alice says

    One wonders what people see—or don’t see. We have many such idiots here too–mountains of cigarette butts outline roads and wilderness. Kudos to you for cleaning as you can–international shame to those who dump.

    • Thanks, Alice. Oh, don’t get me started on the cigarette butts. I think “Out of sight, out of mind” must be official policy over here. No, wait a minute: all this garbage is in full view of everyone!

      I think people here have a talent for not seeing what is right there in their face. Whenever I mention the problem to colleagues or students they stare at me like I’m speaking a foreign language. Oh, yeah, that’s right, I am — but still, they understand alright, they’ve just never noticed or given it a second thought.

  3. PS This reminded me of trying to go for walks when our daughter was a tiny thing, about 4-5. She had heard something at school about litter and became obsessed with picking up every scrap she saw and carrying it to the nearest bin. Our walks were ruined – there was a surprisingly huge amount of litter on the Thames towpath for someone with a beady eye to spot. I hate to think what she would have made of your spot! Good for you.

    • How soon can you send her to Korea? And a few thousand of her friends?

      Yes, there’s litter everywhere (well, I remember Switzerland as being pretty damned clean!), but litter as a concept doesn’t seem to exist here. There’s waste material, there’s the ground, and the two belong together like fermented cabbage and garlic.

  4. “I’ve got this theory that water attracts idiots”

    This is clearly a theory that you developed in Australia.

      • Carl,

        Your attachment to the water is a spiritual, cathartic one …..Bondi, Sydney …..Pandanus Beach, Wynnum.

        It explains a lot really.

      • Like me, Carl is a Bayside boy. We have Moreton Bay mud in our blood — whatever blood the sandflies and mosquitos didn’t get.

      • You are the exception that proves the rule, Carl. I do recall more than one bitch from you about certain elements among the Bondi Beach crowds, however!

    • How did you guess, Frank? I began formulating this theory as a child when I realised that though I loved being near the water, I loved it a whole lot more if there were few or none of my kind in the vicinity.

      As an adult I discovered water-skiers and jet-skiers and bogan corroborrees at waterholes and creeks — theory refined, perfected and proven!

      • whoa ….you bayside people don’t have it all your own way. I grew up near water also. The mighty Red Hill creek was a local swimming hole. More hole than swimming. Outside of flood season you would get a good five inches of water. Inside flood season you wouldn’t go swimming.

  5. Carl says

    Credit to the Goat for cleaning up that rubbish when you see it. Good on you

    • Yes, I just do not get why people would do that. They havent been brought up right?

      I would get a clip over the ear if I left garbage everywhere.

      • I don’t recall ever being taught that behaviour specifically, but I suppose my parents did an excellent job with us kids as I doubt any of us have tossed anything on the ground in our lives.

    • I should do more but it would be a fulltime job! And I’m worried that if I clean too much of it up, I’ll run out of photographic subject matter.

  6. Sue says

    Unbelievable. I hope your English class hears all about it. Some beautiful photos there, mostly the cropped ones of course… and the bike one.

    • Thanks, Sue. I rant sometimes in class but it’s depressing when students just stare mutely without acknowledging my wisdom and righteousness. So as revenge I will prepare a lengthy slideshow just of trash pictures — believe me, I have probably 200; most of my shots never make it to the blog due to space and time limits — and hit them hard in my final week. Don’t forget me, kids — or my message!

  7. Darius Russell says

    …’Ya know, Goat, there I was awhile back riding my pink bicycle in the middle of the river in Korea–when suddenly that hangover from all that “Ass” beer hit me with a wallop!! OF COURSE, I did what any self-respecting “Ass” drinker would do in my position and immediately dropped my pink bike [Man, that explains the poor traction I was getting that day upstream!) SHEESH!!

    Thus I SO appreciate your hauling my sleek racing machine (or what you call “trash”) down the mountainside. –I promise it won’t happen again, I always try and keep my “Ass” beer fogged, drunken haze benders to a minimum—though there’s NOTHING riding up-stream on my pink cruiser (Damn, I miss that bike!!)

    Thanks for cleaning up after me though!!

    Later, Goat!

    Happy hiking, Spynewz007
    (**YES, I WAS on a Secret Agent Mission for Her Majesty’s Secret Service that day in Korea! James Bond has his Vodka Martini’s–I have my “Ass” beer!!!!)

    • A stroke of genius, Agent Darius, blending in with the locals by riding a pink bike in the river, hurling your Ass can AND your bike in when you were finished! “When in Gimhae”, etc etc. I’m sorry for almost blowing your cover by hauling that sucker out! I’ll go back tonight and chuck it back in — if it hasn’t been done already…

  8. Awful though the litter is, I think some of your photos incorporating it are brilliant – especially the first with the long-exposure, dreamy waterfall and the discreet pair of crushed cans bottom left. The pink bike, too.

    • Thanks, Dominic. I decided if I’m going to document all the junk over here — and it’s seriously becoming a major theme, complete with its own tags in my photo library — I might as well do it as artistically and meticulously as I can! The bike was fun. I shot it in the morning from the bank, then decided I wanted to get up closer, so went back in the afternoon — yes, it was still there — took off my shoes and waded out with the fish-eye adapter on the camera. Very soothing on a hot day — but that sucker was HEAVY!

  9. Finally I get to drop by here, malware free! Years and years ago, Australian nature was a bit like this in places, wasn’t it? I’m trying to remember, but in the early ’70’s it was a bit of a free-for-all regarding chucking stuff. I think?! I guess Korea might head that way, but they’re about 30 years behind…?

    • Yeah, mate, that bloody malware thing annoyed and depressed the crap outta me but it’s been vanquished or ignored to death now. Second time that’s happened. Supposedly it’s not a real threat — but that’s like being told grey nurse sharks are usually harmless before you go diving with them. It’s that “usually” that stings…

      Yes, Korea lags behind the west in so many areas. As an example, the latest craze in classrooms here is RUBIK’S CUBES. (Couldn’t be bothered checking the spelling – the very word annoys me.) Maybe in 10 years or so they’ll enjoy a nice “KEEP KOREA BEAUTIFUL” or “DO THE RIGHT THING” campaign. You just know they’ll employ a cute animal of some type in the ads, even if it’s actually been rendered extinct…

  10. fender1970 says

    Continues to reinforce my belief that most people suck. It may be a simplistic way of putting it, but ultimately I don’t think it takes a brainiac to realize that leaving trash beside a creek, road, field, sidewalk, etc. is not the correct thing to do. Even if you don’t understand the intellectual part of it (damages the eco system, birds eat it, squirrels get tangled in it) there is an emotional and aesthetic part. Who in their right mind would want to come to a nice creek and water fall and look at empty soda bottles, dirty diapers and cigarette butts?

    • Yep, rampant selfishness and utter disconnection from Nature. Perhaps it’s the dark side of the nanny state — when Nanny ain’t around to change those diapers anymore, what do you do? Chuck ’em in the creek, of course!

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