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J. People Plants Environ > Volume 27(2); 2024 > Article
Huh, Heo, Park, and Kim: Citizens’ Perceptions and Assessment of an Urban Mountainous Forest Restoration: Nature, History, and Changes

ABSTRACT

Background and objective: Most cities in South Korea have mountainous forests as hinterland green space in their centers, which are used as urban parks. This study was conducted to analyze citizens’ perceptions of a mountainous forest restoration project being carried out in Jinju City.
Methods: The research site is part of Bibongsan Mountain in Jinju City. Visitors’ perceptions of the Bibongsan Restoration Project (BRP), carried out since 2015, were surveyed and analyzed regarding nature, history, and changes. The survey was conducted from August to October 2019, and the collected data were statistically analyzed.
Results: The main socio-demographic changes were an increase in the proportion of men among visitors, aging, and an increase of unemployed people in the occupational distribution. The overall assessment of BRP implementation was positive. Visitor perceptions of the value, revival, and restoration of historical resources were more vital than in 2015 and had a strong positive correlation with each other. Visitors identified a high need for safety facilities for elderly visitors, improved wireless communication services, facilities for various recreational activities, outdoor learning facilities and programs for nature study, expanded parking lots, and improved transportation services.
Conclusion: The urban mountainous forest restoration project is overall satisfactory and needs to be continued. The results showed that urban mountainous forests are not only recognized as spaces for walking and exercise for health but also recently as historical spaces expressing the unique or featured identity of the city, educational spaces for interest and understanding of nature, and recreational spaces that reflect local lifestyle changes. Thus, urban forests need to be restored in the context of local historical and cultural resources as well as natural resources. In addition, there is a need to be aware of various changes in the population, including aging and an increase in retirees.

Introduction

As of 2020, 62.7% of South Korea’s land area was mountainous, compared to only 21.1% and 37.6% of Switzerland’s and New Zealand’s, respectively (KFS, 2021). This data shows South Korea’s natural landscape and lifestyle are strongly connected to mountains. Unlike European cities, most Korean cities have mountainous forests in urban areas. These forests pose a dilemma between conservation and development. Due to high population density and lack of urban park areas, urban forests are being developed and used as a type of urban park for nature experience and the health of residents. The purpose of visiting urban forests is mostly walking and exercising for health, and well-maintained hiking trails and sports facilities are recognized as major facilities in urban forests (Heo et al., 2016; Huh et al., 2022; Lee and Kim, 2018; Yoo et al., 2007). The use of urban forests cannot be prohibited, but the use inevitably leads to forest damage. Natural disasters such as heavy rain and snow were once the primary causes of forest damage. However, human activities such as forest fires, conversion to farmland, and illegal occupation are causing significant damage. Damaged forests need restoration, but the restoration of urban forests used as urban parks cannot be limited to just a recovery or revival of nature.
Restoration of urban forests is a vital policy task in that it can improve the quality of life for citizens (Huh et al., 2022). As the 1st 10-Year Forest Rehabilitation Plan (1973–1978) and the 2nd 10-Year Forest Rehabilitation Plan (1979–1987) aimed at national reforestation, recreational activities in forests were restricted. However, the 5th Basic Forest Plan (2008–2017) and the 6th Basic Forest Plan (2018–2037) actively supported recreational activities in forests, as they aimed to utilize forests for economic, welfare, and ecological purposes (KFS, 2018). Meanwhile, the central government enacted the Mountainous Districts Management Act in 2003 to prevent damage to or the indiscriminate development of urban forests and to ensure integrated management. Specific permit standards for converting mountainous districts to other uses are regulated and managed by each local government through ordinances (Jung and Jeong, 2018).
Jinju City is one of the local governments in the southern region of South Korea. Compared to the central region, the mountainous forests have evergreen broad-leafed plants as well as temperate deciduous plants and have a unique terrain along with the Namgang River that runs through the city center. Jinju City, with its unique history, culture, and lifestyle, is an ancient city with 1,300 years of history that represents the Gyeongnam region and is the economic and cultural center of Western Gyeongnam, which was the birthplace of the founders of Samsung, LG, GS, and Hyosung Group. However, until recently, forests adjacent to the city center have already been damaged due to excessive use, cultivation, and illegal buildings and facilities and are still in progress. In residential areas at the foot of mountains, there is concern about casualties due to disasters such as embankment collapse and landslides during heavy rain. In particular, Bibongsan Mountain, located in the center of Jinju City, is a forest that requires restoration and development due to damage and lifestyle changes. For a long time, the indigenous people were aware of Bibongsan as a prominent mountain in Feng Shui and as a mountain behind the propitious site that protected the village. Jinju City has continuously maintained six significant mountains, including Bibongsan Mountain, since 2004 (Heo et al., 2017) and has implemented the Bibonsan Restoration Project titled “Bibongsan Finding My Self” since 2015. In this study, we aimed to analyze citizens’ perceptions, evaluations, and needs regarding nature, history, and changes in the planning and implementation of the urban, mountainous forest restoration project focused on Bibongsan Mountain in Jinju City.

Research Methods

Site overviews

The spatial scope is the area of 1 Bongrae-dong, Jinju-si, Gyeongsangnam-do, located at 35°12’11.25”N, 128°04’45.18”E, with an area of about 110ha (Fig. 1). The research site has an elevation ranging from 162 m at its highest point to about 30 m at its lowest. The site to be restored and developed as a mountainous urban park is mainly distributed at 90m. Throughout the site, slopes of more than 15° appear, and most of the slopes that are more than 30° are analyzed as steep slopes. The vegetation found at the site includes communities of Quercus variabilis, Quercus variabilis-Platycarya strobilacea, Pinus thunbergii, Quercus acutissima, Quercus acutissima-Castanea crenata, Pinus densiflora, and Robinia pseudoacacia. There are also distributions of secondary grassland, farmland, orchards and nursery beds, residential areas and bare land.
The site is a hinterland located within the neighborhood living area in the center of the city, which is easy to access on foot and is used as a recreational space for citizens along with the trails of Seonhaksan Mountain adjacent to it. Although designated as a Bibongsan neighborhood park, it has been relatively excluded from park & green space development projects due to development restrictions as most of the mountain area is private land. As for the land use status within the site, forest land accounts for 69.6% of the total area, agricultural land accounts for 23.7%, and urbanized areas account for 6.4%. The southern side adjacent to the site is an urbanized area with a distribution of housing and transportation infrastructure. Jinjuseong Fortress (Historic Site No. 118) and Chokseoknu Pavilion are located in the adjacent areas, and other various historical and cultural resources, including Jinju Hyanggyo, are also dispersed, forming a historical and scenic axis (Fig. 2). Bibongsan was named “Bi (flying)” + “Bong (phoenix)” + “San (mountain)” because it has the shape of a flying phoenix from a geomantic perspective in Feng Shui. Since Feng Shui geomantic shape of the city center resembled that of a phoenix with its wings outstretched, a bamboo forest was created along the Namgang River to house the phoenix. Feng shui landscapes were created in the city center reflecting the feng shui of Bibongsan Mountain, but now most of them are damaged.
Residential areas at the foot of the mountain are vulnerable to disasters such as embankment collapses and landslides during heavy rain (Fig. 3). On the concrete mountainside road built on the main ridge, vehicle traffic impedes the walking of visitors and has a high risk of accidents. Indiscriminate farming, unauthorized buildings, and illegal facilities are scattered, and forest damage and soil erosion are in progress (Heo et al., 2015). Unstable soil clods are scattered throughout the sedimentary rock area, posing a risk of rock falls. Forest damage due to citizen use is also ongoing.

Bibongsan Restoration Project (BRP)

The project aimed to restore the former appearance of Bibongsan Mountain, the prominent mountain in Jinju City, and to create an eco-friendly ecological park with history and culture. The mountain was restored to a forest to provide residents with a relaxing place and students with outdoor learning opportunities. From 2015 to 2017, the BRP was conducted to restore damaged forests and turn them into an ecological park while strengthening disaster prevention. The primary direction in planning the BRP was consistently established by analyzing its higher-level and related plans (Table 1), which were to expand the urban forest’s function, create ecological space, recreational space for leisure and healthy living, and a sustainable environment. The primary direction of Jinju City’s park and green space strategy was to build a biotope network that connects the Namgang River and mountainous areas by actively preserving the Namgang River and its tributaries, which run through the city center, and by expanding and maintaining small parks relevant to daily life, thereby establishing an open space system that links water space and parks, public amenities, residential areas, and road networks (Heo et al., 2017). From 2004 to 2016, the focus of park & green space projects was shifted from developing the seven significant mountains near Jinju City to developing Bibongsan Mountain and Seonhaksan Mountain. Jinju City carried out the BRP based on the master plan and detailed designs selected through a public competition. Based on the damage status of Bibongsan Mountain surveyed from February to May 2015, Jinju City purchased private land on the site, compensated for obstructions such as graves, demolished containers, dog breeding kennels, warehouses, and compost depots along the mountainside road, and banned unauthorized farming.
Under the master plan, the site was created with four spaces and forest trails for relaxation (Fig. 4). From 2016 to 2018, Space A, which featured Bongran Rest Area, Observatory, Forest Play Class, Ecological Education Center, and Forest Experience Class, was created with the theme of history and culture. Space B was formed around the theme of forests for recreation, including Cypress Forest for recreation, Theme Trekking Course, Meditation Forest, and Herbal Therapy Center. Space C was created around the theme of learning and participation, including Forest Experience Center, Forest Prenatal Class, Tansaengsu Planting Station, and Forest Playground. From 2018 to 2020, Local Tree Species Forest, Barefoot Experience Forest, Forest Etiquette School, Wind Bathing Garden, and Pine Forest Garden were added to Space C, whereas in Space D, Forest Performance Stage, and Picnic Garden were created with the theme of forest experience.

Survey and analysis

Based on previous studies, citizens’ perceptions and evaluations of the BRP conducted since 2015 were surveyed and analyzed from the perspective of nature, history, and changes. The questionnaire was designed to compare their perceptions and evaluations before and after the BRP. Heo et al. (2015) analyzed their attitudes towards restoring degraded forests before BRP started. From the results of Heo et al. (2017), it was also designed to consider the use behavior and satisfaction of visitors.
The questionnaire included respondents’ socio-demographic background, motivation and frequency of visits, evaluation of BRP performance, change in perception of historical values, and needs arising from changes (Table 2). Variables related to socio-demographic background, motivation, and frequency of visits were designed as nominal scales, and other variables were designed as 5-point Likert scales (5 = strongly agree, 1 = strongly disagree). The survey was carried out in the same method as Heo et al. (2015) and Heo et al. (2017): it conducted from August to October 2019 at the entrances to the main hiking trails leading to Bibongsan Mountain, with respondents completing self-administered questionnaires. Of the responses collected, a total of 300 were analyzed after invalid responses were excluded. Frequency analysis, descriptive statistical analysis, t-test, or correlation analysis were performed on the collected data using IBM SPSS Statistics 27.

Results and Discussion

Socio-demographic background

Of the respondents, 49.2% were male and 50.8% were female (Table 3). Compared to the results in 2015, the proportion of males tended to increase (Heo et al., 2015). Those over 60 had the largest share (54.3%), followed by those in their 50s (30.3%). The proportion over age 60 has grown steadily, from 30.0% in 2004 to 35.6% in 2015 (Heo et al., 2015; Heo et al., 2017). For reference, the proportion of people aged 60 or older among the total population of Jinju City in 2015 and 2019 was 19.7% and 23.3%, respectively (Jinjy City, 2024). Arboretums and recreational forests are most frequently used by people aged 31–40 and 41–50 (Joo and Yeo, 2000; Lee, 2012; Lim et al., 2008; Noh et al., 2010). Even though the urban forest was easily accessible, these results seemed to be caused by the monotonous recreational services offered without exhibits and instructional activities (Huh et al., 2022; Lee et al., 2017). Regarding occupation, housewives were the largest group at 32.4%, followed by the unemployed (25.1%) and the self-employed (11.4%). In 2015, however, the largest group was still housewives at 31.1%, but they were followed by the employed (23.6%) and others (22.6%; Heo et al., 2015). This change is suggested to be caused by an aging population, more retirees, and monotonous leisure facilities and services as well as an increase in leisure time.

Motive and number of visits

The most common purpose of visits was walking and hiking at 96.3%, followed by others at 2.0%. Compared to the trend in 2015, the proportion of walking and hiking was increased (Heo et al., 2015). This was despite the recreational activities available becoming more diverse, which could be explained by monotonous recreational facilities and services in forest areas, an increase in more attractive indoor sports facilities and programs in urban areas, and socio-demographic changes in visitors. The lifestyle of South Korean society has recently shifted towards leisure activities such as traveling, fishing, and playing and watching sports (Kang et al., 2019). For example, farmers’ preferred sporting activities were diverse; walking was the most popular, followed by hiking, gateball, aerobics, bodybuilding, and dancing (Kim and Kang, 2007). However, although elderly people engaged in leisure activities almost daily, their most satisfying leisure activities were watching TV (42.6%) and walking (38.5%) because they lack the spare time or money for other activities (Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, 2019; Jeon and Kim, 2020). The highest frequency of visits was once or twice a week (36.1%), followed by daily (31.4%). The increase in visit frequency may be due to socio-demographic changes in visitors. However, the BRP’s performance has increased the attractiveness or satisfaction of visiting Bibongsan Mountain.

Assessment of BRP implementation

With a score range of 3.9 to 4.22, the overall assessment was favorable (Table 5). It means that the BRP was executed with some degree of success. Respondents largely agreed with the following: the illegal buildings spread around the forest had been removed successfully (3.99); soil erosion had been reduced due to the cultivation ban (3.99); and disaster safety had been provided by the demolition of run-down residences at the base of the mountain (4.05). They also recognized that removing the concrete pavement of mountainside roads made walking easier (4.12) and that the trails were improved into areas for relaxation (4.22). Before the BRP was implemented, visitors recognized the problems of illegal buildings (3.77), soil erosion (3.66) due to cultivation, and the danger of old houses (3.65) at the foot of the mountain (Heo et al., 2015). They assessed the concrete pavement and vehicle traffic on the mountainside road as dangerous, inconvenient and unpleasant, scoring 3.6 or higher. As part of the BRP, Jinju City purchased private land within the area, demolished illegal structures, and banned unapproved cultivation. Jinju City Hall first banned vehicle traffic on the mountainside road, removed the concrete pavement, and restored and improved the trail and surroundings with the concept of ecology and healing.
Overall, visitors assessed the following: the degraded forests have been restored, and the ecosystem is recovering after the project (4.10); the view of Bibongsan Mountain from the city has been improved by the creation of evergreen broadleaf forests and flowering tree forests (4.17). They rated the overall issues of Bibongsan Mountain as significantly improved (4.05). Heo et al. (2015) found that before the project, most visitors perceived Bibongsan Mountain as having numerous issues because of forest degradation and unappealing scenery (3.91). These positive outcomes seems to have resulted from the planning and execution of BRP that reflected the findings of Heo et al. (2015) and Heo et al. (2017).

Perception of historical values

Respondents perceived that Bibongsan Mountain and its associated historical resources were of high value. Also, they had an emotional bond with the mountain (Table 6). Compared to the results from 2015, all but one of the variables (x7) showed a statistically significant increase. Shin (2014) reported that awareness of cultural heritage had begun to change gradually based on economic development and cultural needs.
In terms of history and culture, visitors perceived Bibongsan Mountain as a prominent mountain representing Jinju City (4.39), which was a higher perception than before the restoration project (3.83) (Heo et al., 2015). With a score of 4.0 or higher, they also recognized that Bibongsan Mountain has value in terms of urban landscape, local sentiment, and history. In terms of revival and restoration, they recognized that the area around Bibongsan Mountain needed to be restored, as it was rich in historical and cultural resources (3.97). The need for other variables in revival and restoration was also highly perceived.
A correlation analysis (Table 7) showed that all variables were very statistically significantly correlated with each other (p<.01). The more visitors appreciated the historical and cultural value of Bibongsan Mountain, the more they recognized the need for revival and restoration of the area. Respondents’ perceptions of the value, revival, and restoration of historical resources were found to be correlated and reinforced. All things considered, this indicates that residents perceived urban forests as historical and cultural resources as well as natural resources and that they also understand the necessity of restoring historical resources as well as forest restoration. Most mountains in the middle of cities are not only a natural resource but also a historical and cultural resource in the region and thus need to be ecologically and historically restored, conserved, and maintained as an urban park that reflects the lifestyle of residents. Before the BRP, residents and environmental groups called for restoring the damaged forests to conserve the traditional image of Bibongsan Mountain and restore its symbolic value as a landmark.
Recently, a consensus has developed around the idea that restoration and development goals are to discover new meanings of a region’s distinctive values, people, lifestyles, and living spaces, and to revitalize these attributes by reconstructing them culturally (Kim and Choi, 2015). Mun (2008) reported a sharp rise in the number of local governments that promote or plan the conservation and development of landscapes that reflect regional features as important regional policies or projects. Jinju City authorities have promoted the region’s historical and cultural identity and values to citizens and have incorporated citizens’ perceptions of ecological and historical attributes into urban forest restoration plans, including the BRP (Heo et al., 2015). Such policies and projects may have influenced changes in citizens’ perceptions of Bibongsan Mountain. In the future, the restoration and management of Bibongsan Mountain will require that historical and cultural attributes be combined with natural resources to create an appealing resource.

Needs from changes

Compared to the mountains outside the city, the age distribution of visitors to Bibongsan Mountain in the city center is rapidly aging (Heo et al., 2016; Heo et al., 2017; Lee, 2012; Noh et al., 2010). In terms of changes in the proportion of males and occupations, It suggests that the number of male alone or married couple visitors has increased as the number of retirees increases along with aging (Table 3). Table 8 shows that respondents recognized that providing safety facilities for senior visitors is crucial (4.03). They suggested enhancing safety rails (3.93), emergency alarm systems (4.04), and emergency medical equipment such as cardiac defibrillators (4.07), as well as installing CCTV (4.19) and security lighting (4.00).
Although Table 4 showed that 96.3% of respondents visited for the purpose of walking or hiking, urban forests should provide a variety of recreational opportunities for potential visitors as well as existing visitors (Heo et al., 2017). In fact, respondents recognized the need for facilities for various recreational activities other than walking and hiking (3.89). They recognized the need for more chairs and tables (3.64) and shade shelters (3.71). Heo et al. (2017) reported that visitors to Bibongsan Mountain and Seonhaksan Mountain in 2004 and 2017 expressed a strong need for chairs and decks for forest bathing (3.95 and 3.59 in 2004 and 2017, respectively). Meanwhile, the perceived need to install Wi-Fi zones and fix mobile dead zones was very high, at 3.95 and 4.12, respectively. The result suggests that there has been a significant increase in the number of visitors using wireless communication while enjoying recreation in the urban forest. There is a need to plan for visitors to use wireless communication during different recreational activities.
There was a high need for nature study. The need for better outdoor learning programs and facilities was perceived by the respondents (3.63). In this respect, improving tree name tags and forest information signboards, establishing classrooms in the forest, and forest interpretation programs were recognized as necessary, with a score of 3.5 or higher. Heo et al. (2015) revealed a high level of awareness of the need for cultural and historical education and experience spaces to conserve the historical and cultural value of Bibongsan Mountain (3.81). Heo et al. (2017) stated that in 2004 and 2017, there was a high perceived need for information of forests and trees, such as tree name tags and signs, with scores of 3.69 and 3.53, respectively, but there was a relatively low perceived need for establishing a forest classroom and running a forest library, with a score of less than 3.2. The overall increase in 2019 can be seen as an increase in interest in and need for outdoor learning. Lee et al. (2017) reported that the need for forest interpretation programs has increased significantly, and future intent-to-participate has a very significant correlation with the need. Some local governments have recently installed outdoor learning facilities and operated forest interpretation programs. Educational institutions such as kindergartens and elementary schools that operate forest experience programs have also increased. Recently, the number of people with understanding and experience of forest interpretation programs has increased, and especially retirees are obtaining forest interpreter certification to volunteer in these programs. As a positive understanding of forest interpretation increases, awareness of the need to operate outdoor learning facilities and programs seems to have increased.
Respondents acknowledged the need for facilities to accommodate the growing number of visitors who drive (3.69). Heo et al. (2017) reported that the total number of visitors to Bibongsan Mountain and Seonhaksan Mountain increased by roughly twice on weekdays and 2.5 times on weekends in 2016 compared to 2004 and, as the number of visitors living more than one kilometer from the mountains increased, the number of visitors traveling by car increased. This trend seems to have continued in 2019. The need to install additional parking lots and improve access transportation networks and information facilities was perceived as high above 3.5. Considering aging, land prices, and traffic congestion, it is necessary to install additional parking lots and provide more convenient public transportation networks and information facilities.

Conclusion

Mountain forests, which are found in most South Korean cities, are utilized as a kind of urban park. Damaged urban forests need to be restored, but restoration cannot just mean reviving them. Jinju residents’ perception of Bibongsan Mountain as an urban forest has changed. They perceive urban forests as natural, historical/cultural and recreational resources, and demand their restoration from this perspective. In this study, we aimed to examine public perceptions, evaluations, and demands in terms of nature, history, and change regarding the urban forest restoration in the ongoing project centered on Bibongsan Mountain in Jinju City, South Korea.
Compared to previous surveys, the proportion of male and elderly visitors increased respectively and the number of unemployed increased. The purpose of visits is mainly walking and hiking, and the number of visits has increased. First, the overall assessment of the Bibongsan Restoration Project (BRP) was positive, ranging from 3.9 to 4.22 points. The primary reasons for such an evaluation seem to be: the purchase of private land within the site, the demolition of unauthorized structures, the prohibition of unauthorized farming, the removal of the concrete pavement on the mountain road, and the rehabilitation and enhancement of the surrounding farmland and trails with the concept of ecology and healing. Mountainous forest restoration projects such as the BRP needs to continue in this direction.
Visitors perceived that Bibongsan Mountain and its related historical resources were highly valuable and emotionally connected to them. The higher they estimated the historical and cultural value of Bibongsan Mountain, the higher they perceived the need for its revival and restoration. It indicates that visitors’ perceptions of the value and restoration of historical resources are correlated and reinforce each other. Citizens value urban forests as historical and cultural resources as well as natural resources. They also understand the need to restore the forests and their historical resources. Therefore, the future restoration and conservation of Bibongsan Mountain should embody not only natural attributes but also historical and cultural attributes as attractive resources.
The needs arising from changes in socio-demographic background were assessed or inferred. Among the major changes are the aging of the population and the rise in the number of unemployed visitors (perhaps brought on by an increase in retirees). Visitors recognized the critical need for safety amenities for elderly citizens. They also recognized the need to provide facilities for various recreational activities, other than walking and hiking, for potential and existing visitors. The number of visitors using wireless communication during recreational activities in the urban forest has increased significantly. Thus, there is a need to plan for visitors to use wireless communications during their various recreational activities. There was a great need for learning about nature. Awareness of the need to operate outdoor learning programs and facilities has increased, together with the increased positive perception of forest interpretation. Due to the increase in visitors using transportation, the need to expand parking lots and improve transportation services seems to increase.
In summary, mountainous forests in the cities have been perceived as a space for walking and exercise for health. More recently, however, citizens need to use the forests as an educational space for learning about nature, a historical space expressing a locally unique and featured identity, and a recreational or living space that reflects changes in culture and lifestyle from social and demographic backgrounds. Therefore, restoration of damaged mountainous forests will require not only the conservation of nature, which is mainly done in national parks, but also restoration and management planning and implementation that comprehensively considers nature, history, and social and cultural changes. This study conducted a long-term, broad-overview analysis of visitors’ perceptions, assessments, and needs regarding the mountainous forest restoration projects recently implemented by local governments. Future research should aim for a more in-depth analysis by narrowing the scope of citizens’ perceptions studied.

Fig. 1
The research site of Bibongsan Mountain in Jinju City, South Korea: the inner area of the red borderline on the map was where the restoration was planned; Jinju Hyanggyo is located in a yellow circle, which is traditional local school annexed to the Confucian shrine.
ksppe-2024-27-2-129f1.jpg
Fig. 2
Historical and cultural resources around Bibongsan Mountain: (left) Jinju Hyanggyo, traditional local school annexed to the Confucian shrine; (right) Jinjuseong Fortress and Chokseokru Pavilion next to Namgang River. Source: from Jinju City Hall.
ksppe-2024-27-2-129f2.jpg
Fig. 3
Degradation patterns of forest on and around the ridge and hillside of Bibongsan Mountain. Source: from Jinju City Hall.
ksppe-2024-27-2-129f3.jpg
Fig. 4
Spaces allotted according to BRP Master Plan: A is a historical and cultural space; B is a forest space for recreation; C is learning and participation space; D is forest experience space.
ksppe-2024-27-2-129f4.jpg
Table 1
The initiatives or plans related to the planning of Bibongsan Restoration Project (BRP)
Initiatives & plans Contents
The Revised 4th Comprehensive National Territorial Plan (2011–2020)
  • Sustainable and eco-friendly national territory

  • An eco-friendly national land will be created to save energy and resources, and harmonize economic growth and the environment. The national territory free and safe from natural disasters such as floods and drought resulting from climate change will be built.

  • Elegant and attractive national territory

  • Korea will improve its dignity by taking advantage of historical and cultural resources while it builds an attractive national territory where every person enjoys a decent quality of life.

The 2nd Basic Plan for Conservation of Natural Environment (2006–2015)
  • Build a healthy and balanced National natural ecosystem where nature and humans coexist

  • Establishment of a land management system for harmony between environment and development

  • Creating a natural environment on the Korean Peninsula where ecosystems and humans harmonize

The 3rd Comprehensive National Environmental Plan (2006–2015)
  • Conservation of a sustainable and vital natural ecosystem

  • Conservation and efficient use of natural resources

  • Creating a safe and livable living environment

The Revised 3rd Gyeongsangnam-do Comprehensive Plan (2012–2020)
  • Healthy and safe green environment

  • Establishment of a promotion system to respond to climate change at the local level and promotion of environmental policies

  • Establishing a disaster prevention system to protect residents from disasters and to lead convenient lives

  • Creating an attractive culture

  • Expansion of a high-quality culture and arts that all residents can enjoy together

  • Establishing Gyeongnam’s identity by linking the local unique historical and cultural contexts

2025 Jinju City Master Plan
  • Establishment of an integrated park and green space system throughout the city

  • Promote a green space network by connecting scattered or fragmented green spaces, parks, and other facilities

  • Establish an ecological and sustainable green space base by integrating and linking core green space, base green space, connected green space, and green space in living areas, etc.

  • Harmonious conservation and development of natural resources

  • Conservation of forests and habitats with ecological values

  • Encourage spatial development that makes the most of existing terrain and green space

  • Providing qualitative leisure activities by creating various park spaces that make the most of local natural, historical, and cultural resources

Table 2
Scheme of questionnaire design for citizens’ perception and assessment of BRP implementation
Category No. of questions References
Socio-demographic background 3 Heo et al., 2015; Heo et al., 2017; Joo and Yeo, 2000; Lee et al., 2017; Lee and Kim, 2018; Yoo et al., 2007
Motive and number of visits 2
Assessment of BRP implementation 8
Perception of historical values 8
Needs from changes 20
Table 3
Socio-demographic background
Variables 2019 2015*


Frequency % Frequency %
Gender Male 147 49.2 141 47.3
Female 152 50.8 157 52.7

Total 299 100.0 298 100.0

Age 20s 7 2.3 17 5.7
30s 11 3.7 19 6.4
40s 28 9.3 62 20.8
50s 91 30.3 94 31.5
Over 60 163 54.3 106 35.6

Total 300 100.0 298 100.0

Occupation Farmer 10 3.3 8 2.7
Self-employed 34 11.4 49 16.6
Employed 62 20.7 70 23.6
Student 2 0.7 10 3.4
Housewife 97 32.4 92 31.1
Not-employed 75 25.1 0 0.0
Others 19 6.4 67 22.6

Total 299 100.0 296 100.0

* source: Heo et al. (2015). Missing values within each variable were excluded. Therefore percent means valid percent.

Table 4
Motive and number of visits to Bibongsan mountain
Variables 2019 2015*


Frequency % Frequency %
Motive of visits Farming 3 1.0 1 0.3
Walking & hiking 284 96.3 278 94.9
Visiting ancestral graves 2 0.7 2 0.7
Others 6 2.0 12 4.1

Total 295 100.0 293 100.

No. of visits Every day 93 31.4 33 11.3
Once or twice per week 107 36.1 82 28.2
Once or twice per month 53 17.9 82 28.2
Once or twice per year 36 12.2 73 25.1
Never been before 7 2.4 21 7.2

Total 296 100.0 291 100.0

* source: Heo et al. (2015). Missing values within each variable were excluded. Therefore percent means valid percent.

Table 5
Evaluation of restored and improved Bibongsan mountain compared to before the BRP
Category Variables Mean S.E.
Demolish & prohibit The illegal facilities scattered around were successfully removed. 3.94z .05
Soil erosion decreased due to the elimination of farming practices. 3.99 .05
After the demolition of the old houses along the hillside, it became safe from disaster. 4.05 .04

Trails improvement Walking got better after the concrete pavement on the mountain road was removed. 4.12 .05
The trails has been improved into healing trails. 4.22 .04

Restoration & Improvement Deforestation is being restored and the ecosystem is being revived. 4.10 .04
The landscape of Bibongsan Mountain seen from the city has been improved: the creation of evergreen broadleaf forest and floral forest. 4.17 .04
The overall problems of Bibongsan Mountain have been greatly improved. 4.05 .04

Note: problems before the implementation of the project (2015) Illegal facilities are scattered: buildings, vinyl houses, steel fences, barbed wire, etc. 3.71 .06
Soil is being eroded due to farming practices. 3.66 .06
The old houses along the hillside are at risk of disaster. 3.65 .05
The mountain road is paved, making it inconvenient to walk. 3.60 .06
It is necessary to transform existing trails into healing trails. 4.12 .05
The ecosystem has been destroyed due to deforestation. 3.66 .06
The landscape of Bibongsan Mountain from the city needs to be improved. 3.53 .06
Bibongsan Mountain overall has many problems. 3.91 .05

z The scales were set to a 5-point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree). Missing values within each variable were excluded. S.E. is standard error.

Table 6
Historical and cultural perception of Bibongsan mountain
Variables 2019 2015 t-test



Mean S.E. Mean S.E. t p
History & culture It is a major mountain in geomancy, representing Jinju City. (x1) 4.39z .04 3.83 .06 7.755 .000
It forms the major urban landscape of Jinju City. (x2) 4.29 .05 3.84 .06 6.174 .000
It is filled with the joys and sorrows of Jinju citizens and influences our emotions. (x3) 4.24 .05 3.78 .06 6.174 .000
It is a space with historical value where the lives of our ancestors reside. (x4) 4.31 .04 3.93 .05 5.605 .000

Revival & restoration Its surrounding area contains many historical and cultural resources, and the need for restoration is high. (x5) 3.97 .05 3.71 .06 3.408 .001
Its related folktales must be revived into a tourism resource with a story. (x6) 4.04 .05 3.83 .06 2.785 .006
Its historical resources must be revived to cultivate civic sentiment and form consensus. (x7) 4.00 .05 3.88 .05 1.709 .088
It must be restored for education and experience of history and culture. (x8) 4.03 .05 3.81 .06 2.940 .003

z The scales were set to a 5-point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree). Missing values within each variable were excluded. S.E. is standard error.

Table 7
Correlation matrix of historical and cultural perception of Bibongsan mountain
x1z x2 x3 x4 x5 x6 x7 x8
x1 1
x2 .718** 1
x3 .541** .628** 1
x4 .592** .624** .670** 1
x5 .442** .455** .486** .452** 1
x6 .438** .392** .409** .388** .656** 1
x7 .398** .434** .425** .397** .640** .743** 1
x8 .446** .479** .451** .404** .600** .736** .769** 1

z x1 ... x8 are simple expression of the variables listed in Table 6.

** significant at p< .01.

Table 8
Needs from socio-demographic lifestyle for additional improvements after the restoration project
Category Variables Mean S.E.
Aging & safety • Safety facilities are needed for elderly visitors. 4.03z .05
 Complement the safety rails of hiking trails 3.93 .04
 Complement emergency alarm systems 4.04 .04
 Complement the installation of emergency medical equipment such as cardiac defibrillators 4.07 .05
 Installation of CCTV for Safety Accidents 4.19 .05
 Additional security lighting for dawn or night use 4.00 .05

Recreation & facilities • Facilities are needed for various recreational activities other than hiking or walking. 3.89 .06
 Additional installation of chairs and tables 3.64 .05
 Additional installation of shade shelters such as pergola 3.71 .06
 Installation of outdoor stage, forest performance hall, etc. 3.46 .06
 Installation of Wi-Fi zone 3.95 .06
 Resolving mobile phone outage areas 4.12 .05

Outdoor learning • It is necessary to improve facilities and operate programs for outdoor learning. 3.63 .06
 Supplementation of tree name tags and forest information signboards 3.79 .05
 Installation of classrooms in the forest for daycare, kindergarten, and students of all levels 3.67 .06
 Deploy forest interpreters and operate a forest interpretation program 3.60 .06

Access • Facilities are needed to accommodate the increase in visitors using cars. 3.69 .07
 Additional installation of parking lot 3.53 .07
 Improvement of access transportation networks 3.57 .06
 Improvement of transportation information facilities 3.65 .06

z The scales were set to a 5-point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree). Missing values within each variable were excluded. S.E. is standard error.

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