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Korean bishops caution against losing green spaces

Govt wants to develop housing projects by utilizing green-belt zones and unused land across the country
Environmental activists wearing clothes made from plastic waste perform during a campaign event to mark International Earth Day in Seoul on April 22.

Environmental activists wearing clothes made from plastic waste perform during a campaign event to mark International Earth Day in Seoul on April 22. (Photo: AFP)

Published: May 21, 2024 10:56 AM GMT
Updated: May 22, 2024 05:30 AM GMT

The Catholic bishops’ Conference of South Korea has expressed concern over the government's decision to lift land development restrictions in Green Belt Zones across the country, saying it will impact the environment and future generations.

“These zones are the last bastion of protection for green space in urban centers, and their removal undermines the assets we will pass on to future generations,” said Father Blasio Park Hyun-dong, chair of the Korean Catholic Bishops’ Conference’s Ecology and Environment Committee.

Park said lifting land development restrictions in protected zones “goes against the theme of this year's World Environment Day.” The conference website published his message, ahead of World Environment Day, June 5.

The theme “Land restoration, desertification and drought resilience” is a key pillar of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030), critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

In January this year, the Yoon Suk Yeol administration announced measures to boost new housing and development projects, including lifting green-belt restrictions around the capital area, Yonhap News Agency reported.

The move aims to reinvigorate recently dwindled housing projects across the country by utilizing green-belt zones and unused land to discover new development sites within the greater Seoul area to supply an additional 20,000 housing units, Yonhap reported.

Green Belt Zones were first adopted in 1971 to restrict development in areas to prevent indiscriminate rapid urban expansion for environmental preservation, Korea JoongAng Daily reported.

Once a greenbelt has been designated, gaining approval for development projects in the zone becomes difficult.

Earlier, from 2001 to 2003, the restrictions on limited development zones were completely lifted in seven small—and medium-sized cities.

Yoon said a survey will be conducted to scrap "outdated regulations that do not keep up with changing times.”

Korea JoongAng Daily reported that 12 ministries and local governments have imposed 336 farmland use regulations that will be reviewed.

Park stressed the need to “restore a healthy relationship” with creation through ecological repentance and inner transformation. He asked people to work for environmental restoration.

He added that South Korea was the world’s 10th largest greenhouse gas emitter.

“Humanity has not yet succeeded in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which cause global warming,” Park lamented.

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