Guapi Assu is a tropical rainforest along the Atlantic Ocean located 70 km away from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It is home to the tree sloth, ocelot, puma and other wild animals that are facing extinction, and people have been rallying to protect the rainforest from becoming a barren wasteland due to construction and development nearby.
In a bid to better conserve the area, around five hectares of rainforest in Guapi Assu will be officially be named "Seo Tai-ji Forest" on March 21 after the Korean singer of the same name. This marks the fruition of a project by the singer's fans, who began collecting donations two years ago in order to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his musical debut.
Back in January of 2010, members of his online fan club were discussing how to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Seo's debut when one of them proposed doing something to help save the planet's natural resources by staking a claim to an area facing environmental destruction.
Other fans immediately warmed to the idea and formed a team to pursue the project. In July of that year, the fan club signed a memorandum of understanding with the British environmental group World Land Trust to create the Seo Tai-ji Forest. The donations from Seo's fans were delivered to the World Land Trust, which handed the money to REGUA, an environmental group based in the Guapi Assu region. The money was used to buy trees to plant in the dedicated area, which will open to the public this spring.
The fan club joined hands with other groups of people loyal to the singer and held events publicizing the demarcation of the forest. They also held various events, such as selling Seo Tai-ji dolls, in order to raise funds.
Other fans who found out about the project through various channels donated anywhere from several thousand to hundreds of thousands of won. The original target was to raise W5 million (US$1=W1,127), but a total of W38.67 million was collected by the end of last year.
The donations grabbed the attention of Brazilian media. Last May, REGUA set up a large poster of Seo at its office bearing a caption in Korean saying that fans of the musician were creating a forest in order to help save the environment. The environmental group also published an article in its newsletter in June saying that donations from Seo's fans made it possible to plant 27,500 trees, which were proving a huge success in preserving the local rainforest.
Seo Tai-ji Company, the management agency owned by the musician, said it was deeply touched by the fan-led project, adding that Seo was aware of the campaign through the fan club's website.
Seo formed the music group "Seo Tai-ji & Boys" in 1992 and produced a string of mega-hit albums that shifted the landscape of Korean pop music.