The Chollipo Arboretum represents one of the world's most beautiful collections of trees and plants, as evidenced by the fact that it has been recognized by the International Dendrology Society as one of the world's most distinguished arboretums. It is Asia's first and the world's 12th arboretum to be recognized by the body.
Korea's first private arboretum was also named among the 20 best tourist attractions in rural areas in 2010 by the Korea Rural Community Corporation. Its stretch of pine forest near a sandy beach is not unique among Korea's coastline, but this is the only place where a community of around 13,000 species of plants can be found.
About a two-hour drive from Seoul, it sits between Mallipo Beach and Chollipo Beach in Taean, South Chungcheong Province. After visitors buy their entry tickets, arrows on the ground lead them on a walking course that first takes them to an aquatic botanical garden. The expansive lake is filled with aquatic plants, ducks bobbing along on the water and, when the weather accommodates, sunlight reflecting off the surface.
At the end of the lake is a bust of the late Min Pyong-gal, who founded the arboretum. Born Carl Ferris Miller in Pennsylvania, the U.S., he became a naturalized Korean in 1979 after he first came here as a U.S. Navy officer in 1945. He bought the plot in 1962 and began planting trees and plants here in 1970.
Next to the statue, a former administration office now serves as an exhibition room for materials on Min's life. Nearby, a marsh greets visitors with endangered species of plants designated by the Environment Ministry.
The arboretum comprises 18 themed areas. Walking along trails in the woods, visitors can reach gardens of conifers, plants with patterned leaves, and camellias that are as large as human hands. Further along, the trails lead to a coastal walk and a pine forest which command beautiful views of the West Sea, accompanied by the gentle sounds of the waves lapping the shore.
It takes two to three hours to walk around the arboretum, which is also equipped with an ecological education center and guesthouses in the style of traditional Korean homes. Reservations are usually required for those who wish to stay at one of the guesthouses.
For those staying overnight, a guided tour is provided that serves as an opportunity to learn more about the arboretum's 13,000 species of flora. Guests can also collect clams and oysters in the mudflats at low tide, and take sunset walks to enjoy one of the most beautiful scenes the arboretum has to offer.
Meanwhile, a festival of lilies will take place near Mageompo Beach in Taean for 12 days from June 20. For more information, call (041) 675-7881 or visit www.ffestival.co.kr.