Sunchoen City, in the South Jeolla province of Korea, is known for the Suncheon Bay, one of the world’s top 5 coastal wetlands, and the city holds the International Garden Expo in 2023 for the second time since 2013. The Netherlands participated in the first expo in 2013 and designed the Dutch garden with an authentic windmill. Suncheon maintained the Dutch garden, which has always been one of the most popular spots in the park. On the occasion of the opening of 2023 Suncheonman International Garden Expo, the embassy and the expo organizer designated 15 April as the National Day of the Netherlands and held a ‘Children’s Drawing Contest’ with the theme of Flower, Nature, and Ecology.
Background Suncheon Bay(man) International Garden Expo
Suncheon Bay is a place where more than 240 species of migratory birds from all over the world, including the endangered second-class black cranes, visit every year. Also, it has the largest reed colony and tidal flat in South Korea. UNESCO designated the entire city of Suncheon as a biosphere reserve in 2018 and Suncheon Bay Mudflat as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2021.
The beautiful Suncheon Bay used to suffer from pollution in the 1990s. Aggregates from Suncheon Bay were indiscriminately collected, damaging the tidal flats, and civil movements against them also occurred. In the 2000s, the river’s water quality passing through Suncheon was only grade 3, and the smell and sewage flowed from duck farms around Suncheon Bay. Fishing boats, restaurants, and warehouses destroyed Suncheon Bay gradually.
For the current environment of Suncheon Bay, the city had to demolish the duck farms and restaurants that contaminated water and operate eco-friendly cruise ships. In 2009, the city removed 282 electric poles for the safe flight of the black cranes. The wetland restoration project restored 40ha of inland wetlands at Dongcheon Estuary and Suncheon Bay coastal wetlands. As a result, the number of black cranes in Suncheon Bay reached 3,400 in 2021 from 80 in the 90s.
In line with these efforts, Suncheon City established an urban plan with four zones from the city center to Suncheon Bay to disperse tourists flooding into Suncheon Bay and prevent the city center from expanding into Suncheon Bay. Suncheon Bay was designated as a complete conservation zone that cannot be damaged, and an eco-belt was built as a buffer zone between the city center and Suncheon Bay to preserve Suncheon Bay from the expansion of the city center.
Suncheon City’s efforts to preserve Suncheon Bay Wetland led to the hosting of the Suncheonman International Garden Expo at this eco-belt in 2013 for the first time in South Korea, approved by AIPH(International Association of Horticultural Producers). The Dutch government participated in this first expo and created the Dutch national garden, designed by landscape architect Niek Rozen. It became the most attractive garden spot with an authentic Dutch windmill and new varieties of 3,000 tulips from the Netherlands.
In 2015, the Korean government designated the expo site as the first National Garden, by stipulating it in a law. It raised interest and awareness in creating a sustainable environment for citizens through the national garden in other local governments. With the inspiration of this development, Ulsan Metropolitan Government invited Dutch landscape architects, Piet Oudolf and Bart Hoes, for their second National Garden project in Korea.
Suncheon exhibition in Floriade
Suncheon City participated in Floriade, the Dutch horticulture expo, in 2012 and 2022, while the Netherlands participated in the Suncheonman International Garden Expo in 2013 and 2023.
In Floriade Venlo 2012, Suncheon City presented a Korean garden with the “Suncheon Bay and Mother’s Hand Sewing” motif by garden designer Hwang Ji-hae, who won the top prize at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2011 and 2012. The Korean Garden was a Korean expression of the value of the mudflats that humankind should preserve through the mother’s needle, sweat, and sculpture. At that time, the Suncheon Mayor and Korean Ambassador attended the Korean National Day event held in Venlo to promote Korea’s traditional art and garden culture and to announce the Suncheon Bay International Garden Expo opening in 2013.
And last year, Suncheon City participated in Floriade Almere and created a Korean garden. It showcased Lake Garden, the representative symbol of Suncheon Bay National Garden, designated as Korea’s No. 1 National Garden, and Suncheon Bay Wetland. Its participation helped establish cooperation between the Netherlands and Suncheon Bay National Garden and strengthen friendly relations, maintained since the first expo in 2012.
National Day in 2023 Suncheonman International Garden Expo – Children’s Drawing Contest
On the occasion of the opening of the 2023 Suncheonman International Garden Expo, the embassy and the expo organizer designated 15 April as the National Day of the Netherlands and held a ‘Children’s Drawing Contest’ with the theme of Flower, Nature, and Ecology. They conducted this National Day event to make children aware of their surroundings and the environment in our world, the co-existence between nature and humans, and the care we must take to strike the right balance.
Over 500 children showed interest and applied for participation in a short period. To join the contest, over 100 selected children visited the Dutch Garden with a windmill and colorful tulips. The Ambassador of the Netherlands and Mayor of Suncheon City attended the Award Ceremony to congratulate the event and to deliver 11 prizes. The event was very successful, as the message was well delivered, and our contribution was appreciated by both the Organizing Committee of the Garden Expo and the participating citizens.
The embassy supports Suncheon City’s efforts to protect the nature and biodiversity of the Suncheon Bay wetlands. Both parties will continuously work together for a sustainable environment.