Invasive Species of Korea
Invasive Species of Korea
  • Reporter Lee Seung-Joo
  • 승인 2019.02.11 22:45
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Invasive Alien Species damage the ecosystem greatly
Invasive Alien Species damage the ecosystem greatly


Last summer, approximately 700 red imported fire ants were discovered in Pyeongtaek Port. This was the fourth time it was found in Korea since the first discovery from Busan. Meanwhile, red imported fire ants are classified as a part of ‘100 of the World’s Worst Invasive Alien Species’ by the Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG).
Invasive Species are defined as “any kind of living organism that is alien to an ecosystem and causes harm.” The problem is that Invasive Species account for approximately 42% of threatened or endangered species and provide risks towards the ecosystem. As much of human activity and life depend highly on the ecosystem, Invasive Species are a huge issue to the whole world. The ‘Elimination of Invasive Alien Species’ is included among the Aichi Biodiversity Target, or 20 global goals to work on for the next 10 years to conserve biodiversity.
In Korea, along with the red imported fire ants, Coypu, Channeled Applesnail, Red-Eared Slider, American Bullfrog, and etc. are listed among the ‘100 of the World’s Worst Invasive Alien Species.’ These enlisted organisms possess common features present in most species nominated by the ISSG: 1) High Reproductive Abilities, 2) Long Life Spans, 3) Wide Dispersion Range, and 4) High Adaptability. Due to such characteristics, each of the mentioned species successfully settled in the Korean Peninsula and altered Korea’s native ecosystem by disturbing other species population.     
The American Bullfrog was introduced to Korea in 1971 as a food source. However as it preyed on a wide range of native species including other frog species, fish, and snake, the American bullfrog messed up the food chain rapidly. 
The Coypu was also imported as a source of food and fur. But as it lost value and freed in the wild, it started to feed on enormous amount of rice and fish. It also reproduced swiftly- 3 to 4 times a year, each turn yielding up to 15 babies- and grew approximately 10 times bigger than a regular rat. 
The Red-Eared Slider, brought in as a popular pet, started to damage the ecosystem as owners released them in nearby rivers or creeks. These unwanted sliders adapted to the cold climate of Korea and started to feed on many native aquatic organisms. They are now addressed as ‘the assassins of the river.’
The Channeled Applesnail was used as a means of organic farming. The Channeled Applesnail was imported from Japan with the government’s permit and was used to eliminate weed. However, as the snails adapted to survive through the winter seasons, they started to feed on rice as well, causing enormous damage to the farms that adopted them.  
Korea, as a member of the Convention on Biological Diversity, has various measures to deal with Invasive Alien Species. Specifically, the Ministry of Environment released a manual on the protection measures towards the inflow of Invasive Alien Species in 2016 that includes and explains different tactics of Korea to manage Invasive Alien Species.
The Ministry of Environment has explained that Korea has confirmed the Act on Conservation and Utilization of Biodiversity in 2012. This includes not only national biodiversity strategies and conservation but also control of Invasive Alien Species as well. The Ministry of Environment can also classify organisms as Invasive Alien Species and forbid the importation, breeding, culture, and convey of an Invasive Alien Species unless in special circumstances including research, education, etc. 
Korea also monitors the dispersion, emergence, and etc. of Invasive Alien Species and reports this data to regional environmental offices and other related facilities. Starting from 2014, Invasive Alien Species are also terminated in certain protected regions. The Ministry of Environment has reported that they captured approximated 3400 coypus in the Nakdong River region. 
However, as Invasive Alien Species is a global issue, the cooperation of the international community is necessary. Each country must identify and control strictly the inflow and outflow of living organisms between country borders to prevent the advent of more Invasive Species. Invasive Alien Species are the result of globalization. As interactions between countries increase, the advent possibilities of new Invasive Alien Species will accordingly rise. However, with appropriate control measures and awareness of circumstances, Invasive Alien Species can be prevented to a large extent.