Environment, Korea, Streams, Creeks & Rivers
Comments 14

The Jangyu Chainsaw Massacre

One man alone can be pretty dumb sometimes, but for real bona fide stupidity, there ain’t nothin’ can beat teamwork ~ Edward Abbey

Hey, people. A brief interruption to scheduled programming, and the ongoing/interminable Upstate Saga, so I can spit out a bit of rage before it burns a hole somewhere painful. I’ll have the next American chapter — a far happier affair — out in a couple of days. Have a great weekend, and don’t forget to hug your favourite tree!

*     *     *     *     *

A rash of environmental posters, cute and often hilarious, spread over the walls of one of the English rooms during the week — 2nd Years are doing Lesson 7, which bludgeons home the message that Global Warming is Bad in large part because “polar bears are losing their homes”:


Cutest Enviro-Vandal Ever!

But you don’t have to stroll too far — 10 minutes from my front door, 25 from school (closer to 90 for a student) — to observe that perhaps the message still has a way to go:


An early glimpse of proceedings on my return from America

You’ll recall the double whammy of my getting back from America, already a tad down, jet-lagged and heat-struck and un-slept, to find that my beloved canine buddies had vanished and the hillside just up from their prison was undergoing some supercharged beautification.

Well, I’ve been back several times. This was another early view:


Coming Soon to a Mountain Near You!

And another:


Excavator at Rest

It was terrifying to see how fast a thickly wooded hillside could be transformed into an open wound.


Cartoon Constructivators Add a Sense of Fun

I haven’t been back here long, but if there’s one thing the Men in Hardhats of Korea and their mighty saurian steeds are good at, it’s getting things done. I kept going back up the hill — just after dawn, just before dusk — this insane, panicky flood of hope in my chest as I neared the kennels.

No such luck. I kept on walking, a little slower. Each time it was unimaginably worse up there:


Check the detail in those headlight beams!

I wonder if those blokes in their Doosans and Hyundais made sweet, sincere little gems like this in their day too:


A Rare Occasion for Merriment in the Classroom

Or were they glober warming deniers like various other jackasses I could mention?

Yesterday I was back. It had been a few days. Every time I’ve been, there’s only been two machines parked on that increasingly Martian-looking slope. I predicted, apparently correctly, that a new road or bypass was going through, but it now looks like there’ll be some tunnelling involved as well:


A Tunnel Takes Shape

I have to admit, it’s not without a guilty pang of admiration that I observe what a few men, appropriately equipped, can do in a few weeks to a few million years worth of rock and soil and vegetation. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but even after countless hours and many dozens of miles of tramping and trespassing on similar sites in the Jangyu area, I’m still blown away.

It’s impressive stuff, once the urge to puke or cry or get out the old monkeywrench wears off.

Nobody was around, no giant raptors in hardhats, no moving vehicles but the frequent cars flying up the road that would soon be taking a far more dramatic route up the valley.

I got out the cameras and began the best trespass in ages.


I suspect the road (& tunnel) will soon merge with that one on the far side of the creek

The freshly gouged earth made for uneasy walking. I soon slipped, face-planted and rose wiping red earth from the side of my long-suffering lens. Next time I’ll wear footwear with more traction.


A view down-valley towards my place. That multi–storey monstrosity with the arches is the local sauna (pronounced “sah-ooh-na”), or public baths. The creek is on the far side of the road. It’s been a dry Summer and it looks pitiful: blame global warming, the more articulate students often say:


They’ve been studying it in class:


If Only There’d Been One of Those Signs

Never seen a blue flag before. Red ones are preferred in this line of work:


The word at the top is “Gimhae”

Down below, the Tonka Toys waited for dawn and the return of the big kids to the sandpit:


But the big kids would be back earlier than expected. While I stood there, unsteadily, debating whether to climb higher to what remained of treeline, a flash of movement and someone was swinging up into one of the cabs. Uh-oh. Had I been seen? Surely. But being western gets you a long way sometimes.

I left my lookout post among the rubble…


..and scrambled down a gully that hadn’t been there a week ago, past a growing pile of great boulder marbles casually rolled into a neat pile, another of splintered trunks, roots and limbs, and onto the roadside.

Both machines had snarled back into consciousness, droning contentedly as they resumed what they loved best. I stood frozen, appalled and transfixed as they gnawed their way into the hill, the lower one dumping rubble higher up the slope for the other to swoop in and scoop out, swinging it over and into the gully I’d just come down.

It was an a seductive piece of choreography, a brontosaurian ballet. In their cabs, at once absorbed in their work and utterly relaxed, each driver held a cigarette between his lips while he worked his levers and those great steel jaws loomed and lunged, gouged and grabbed.

Behind me, across the road, a dumptruck came to life with a startling bark. It was probably best I got my arse outta there.

I was in grave danger of enjoying myself.



~ And that’s all the Goat wrote


  1. Great post!
    Pity we cant somehow send it on to Tony Abbot, who we are in great danger of getting elected to become our Great Leader today, so that he can get stuck into doing just as you described.
    ‘I really dont think those kids parents were taught these lessons ,, thats why we have to wait another generation to see greater change. by then so many more trees and hillsides destroyed. It is sickening…

    • Thanks, Barb, and yes, the great man is now our leader and it is not a good time to be a tree, a native animal or anyone proud of our real natural assets. As predictable as it all was, I’m still in shock at how mean and short-sighted so many of our countrymen and women can be.

  2. ‘Grave danger’! I like it. But be careful. We wouldn’t want you accidentally incorporated into the South Korean cityscape for ever, so to speak.

    The irony of your piece is breathtaking.

    For some reason my mental video of the brontosaurian ballet had ‘The Blue Danube’ waltz as its soundtrack.

  3. Hmm I used to spend a part of my working life photographing and writing about construction sites like that for a construction equipment magazine – and what they were doing always appalled me (though for financial reasons it would have been imprudent to say so at the time). I was beginning happily to forget about all that, ’til your post reminded me. Not a pretty sight, is it?

    • It’s funny (sort of), Nick, but I get a lot of perverse satisfaction out of photographing excavators in their natural habitat! Usually dozing (hey, nice pun!) in the evenings or mornings when I won’t get busted. Appalled as I am, they have such…presence!

      But yes, sickening, especially here where the country is so small, and the mountains are (for me) places of refuge from all the development down below…

  4. I’m ba-ack from dissertation desolation. And what a post to remind me what I’ve been missing. Goat brilliance. But such a sad subject. BTW, the tilt-shift effect making the digger into a Tonka toy is very cool.

  5. Hey I’ve enjoyed your pictures immensely, especially those of Jangyu! I just moved here a week ago to teach in one of the local hagwons. Are you still living in Jangyu as well? If so would you like to meet up at some point soon? I’d like your perspective on living here, and some tips for hiking around the area. I’ve done some cursory ramblings so far, and have really enjoyed a few places.

    • Hey, Garett! Thanks for the comment, and welcome to the neighbourhood!

      I’m here for another three months, and I have a pretty thorough knowledge of the walking possibilities around the place (as you might have gathered form this blog). Happy to meet after work perhaps — I’ll send you an email.

  6. I think this one slipped through the keeper in your crazed rush of posts! I’m way behind! It’s hard to hang onto the environment when it’s there to be exploited? It’s all pretty depressing stuff. As you know the right are eyeing off the lot down here! It’s hard to find something they don’t want to slip their greasy mitts into for the sake of a buck. I guess not many people mind over in Korea, as their concern for the environment appears to be non-existent?!

    • Yes, Greg, you’ll need to pay close attention — the onslaught is just beginning!

      You should see the mountainside up the road from me now — the massacre was just beginning when I did this post. I see Korea resembling Los Angeles, minus the movie stars and palm trees, if somebody doesn’t rein in these bastards soon. It’s not like they have a lot of space here — I walked most of the length of the country in 12 or 13 days!

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