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Republic of Korea - Country Profile

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Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Bridging the Asian continent and the Pacific Ocean, Korea shows diverse patterns of climate from the cold continental climate to warm oceanic climate, characterized by four distinct seasons. Considering the relatively small size of the land (100,033 km²), Korea nevertheless benefits from diverse biotic resources and a beautiful natural environment due to unique geography which features the coexistence of forest and coastal ecosystems. Korea’s territory is mostly mountainous, with 64% of the land comprised of mountains surrounded by ocean on three sides, providing excellent conditions for the existence of rich biodiversity.

The number of native species in the country is estimated to be higher than 100,000. At the end of 2013, the number of species found in Korea was increased to 41,483. Among them, 2,177 are known to be endemic, with nearly 38,000 indigenous species being present.

Wetlands and tidal flats are habitats crucial to the formation of diverse and distinct characteristics of Korean species. Wetlands are important from the perspective of biodiversity in that they provide habitats for unique organisms, which evolve from environments different from those of terrestrial and aquatic organisms. However, with the gradual reduction in wetlands, diverse wetland species are threatened. Otters (Lutra lutra), Spoon-billed Sandpipers (Eurynorbynchus pygmeus) and Tiny Dragonfly (Nannophya pygmaea) are some of the species on the verge of extinction due to the widespread loss of wetlands. Meanwhile, expansive tidal flats are present on the western coast of the country, providing habitats for diverse types of crustacean, fishes and plankton.

Out of a total of 41,483 species, 2,038 species require special conservation attention and have been designated for legal management. Based on the Act on Wildlife Protection and Management, the number of designated endangered species is 246. These species are categorized into one of two classes. Class I includes 51 species of endangered wild animals and plants that have reduced rapidly in population, to the extent that they may become endangered in the near future unless the threats are removed or diminished. Class II includes 195 species of wild animals and plants that show a rate of reduction in their populations which is of concern and due to either natural or artificial threats.

The Government of Korea is also expanding efforts in restoration of endangered species through breeding programs, and raising public awareness through restoration of species with high cultural value, such as the Crested Ibis. These activities are also serving to enhance multilateral cooperation through the conduct of restoration programs with neighbouring countries. About 40 endangered or critical species are under active restoration programs nationally, which is expected to make contributions to the conservation of regional biodiversity. Korea has been successful in restoration programs for the Asiatic Black Bear and the Crested Ibis.

Ten major categories are used in the designation of protected areas. At the end of 2013, protected area sites totaled 1,402 and covered 20,703.3 km2 of the country’s territory. Representing 16.4% of the national territory, this figure is less than the OECD average. Accordingly, actions aimed at expanding protected area coverage are being promoted. Among the total number of sites, there are: 78 Natural Parks (21 National Parks, 29 Provincial Parks, 28 County Parks); 32 Ecological and Scenery Conservation Areas; 9 Marine Ecosystem Protected Areas; 4 Marine Environment Conservation Zones; 32 Wetland Protected Areas; 32 Baekdudaegan Protected Areas; 378 Forest Genetic Resource Protected Areas; and 11 National Nature Reserves. Also, following the introduction of the “Geopark” certification programme in 2011, five national Geoparks now exist. There are also 18 areas included in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance, while Seoraksan, Jejudo, Shinan Dadohae and Gwangneung Forest have been designated as UNESCO Biosphere Reserves. In 2007, Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes were inscribed in the list of UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

A major biodiversity threat on the Korean Peninsula is habitat loss from rapid urbanization and industrialization, causing the number of endangered flora and fauna to increase at a rapid rate. Despite afforestation efforts, colony restoration and natural restoration, approximately 20.4% of wetlands, 15.9% of farmland and 2.1% of forested land have been reduced in size within the last two decades.

Biodiversity is also threatened by climate change and the invasion of alien species. The total number of alien species that have been naturally or artificially introduced into the country stands at 2,167 (333 plants and 1,834 animals). It has been determined that 18 species among them are causing disturbances to the ecosystem; these species have been designated as invasive and are being kept under control.

Poaching and the drastic increase of individuals of certain species due to the extinction of the natural enemy are causing an imbalance in the ecosystem in spite of diverse programs to protect and manage wild plants and animals. Threats to wildlife continue as a result of increased road kill due to road expansion, poaching and illegal trading. Illegal trafficking of incidental catches without required legal permission also poses serious problems, especially for endangered species.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Korea intends to launch its third NBSAP in 2014. It has been prepared for the 2014-2018 period, following implementation of the previous version prepared for 2009-2013 which focused on the equitable sharing of benefits from biodiversity and the sustainable use of biological and genetic resources. Notably, the latest version was prepared to reinforce the area related to the equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources to reflect the key provisions of the Nagoya Protocol adopted at COP-10. Mainstreaming biodiversity is another core objective of the new NBSAP. Korea prepared its first NBSAP in 1997.

Implementation of the NBSAP 2009-2013 was pursued jointly by 11 relevant government bodies in five core areas, including 14 original strategies. In 2012, progress on implementing this NBSAP was reviewed by the 21st Committee on Green Growth and the 11th Meeting for Reviewing Implementation of the second NBSAP. This review determined that the results of 18 projects were “satisfactory”, and those for 6 projects were “unsatisfactory”, and that improvements were needed in the following areas: i) expansion in protected areas conservation; ii) genetic diversity conservation; iii) establishment of a system of countermeasures for climate change; iv) securing and utilizing biological resources; v) expansion in education programs and raising professional manpower on biodiversity; and vi) establishment of an information-sharing system. To address these shortfalls, the Government decided to promote three main goals: reinforcement of biodiversity conservation; promotion of the sustainable use of biological resources; and the strengthening of action plans for addressing ecosystem threats.

Major achievements of the first two NBSAPs correspond to the expansion of biodiversity conservation infrastructure, promotion of the sustainable use of ecosystems, establishment of a management system for biological resources, and advancements in international cooperation.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

In October 2014, Korea will host COP-12 in Pyeongchang and serve as CBD COP President for the following two-year period. Korea has proposed the establishment of the “Pyeongchang Roadmap 2020” to enhance implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Targets, through support provided by concrete initiatives and partnerships.

In September 2013, the Ministry of Environment established a partnership with the business sector to raise and promote biodiversity programs in the private business sector The partnership named the “Korea Business and Biodiversity Initiative” (KBBI) has been officially enrolled in the Global Platform on Business and Biodiversity managed by the CBD Secretariat. Representatives from the business sector also participate in the National Biodiversity Committee, comprised of officials from relevant government agencies, experts from academic societies and NGOs. The Ministry of Environment provides detailed guidelines for action by partners.

In March 2013, according to Article 17 of the Act on the Conservation and Use of Biodiversity, the National Biodiversity Center was established, with Korea’s National Institute of Biological Resources (NIBR) having been launched in 2007.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The Ministry of Environment administers 57 laws to manage overall environmental issues, 11 of which are directly related to the conservation of the environment and biological diversity. Notably, the Government of Korea enacted the Act on Conservation and Use of Biodiversity in February 2012, which calls for the establishment of an NBSAP every five years; the creation of a system for sharing information with the National Biodiversity Center, with a view to developing an integrated system for managing biodiversity information; iii) preparing the National Species Index; iv) promoting cooperation with North Korea for conservation of biodiversity and endemic species on the Korean Peninsula; v) the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from the use of biological resources; and vi) required pre-testing of alien species to determine if any hazards are imposed on the local ecosystem.

The Korean Government has been using various approaches to mainstream biodiversity through national policies and regulations to raise public awareness on biodiversity matters. However, the expansion of such efforts to the local government level has been insufficient to date. To address this, the Ministry of Environment will provide guidelines for regional biodiversity strategies to local governments to assist them implement local biodiversity strategies.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The Korea Biodiversity Observation Network (KBON) has been recently set up to monitor biodiversity, including the impacts on biodiversity due to climate change, at the national level over the long term.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme