The Gingko Tree or the Apartment Buildings?

This is the question the government of Seoul, South Korea has been pondering this year. What they decided is that they will be tearing down 2 apartment buildings in order to save an 840 year old Gingko tree. The apartments are compromising the roots of this historical tree.

The Gingko tree is believed to be the oldest tree in Seoul and revered by those that live there. In fact, many of the locals bring the tree fruit and other offerings each year and in return ask it to keep them safe. Pregnant women also visit the tree because they believe that eating the leaves while under the tree branches will guarantee them giving birth to a son.

Amazingly, the government will be picking up the tab of 4.6 million dollars to preserve this famous Gingko tree. The money will pay for the relocation of the 12 families that lived in the apartment buildings and the development of a new park that will protect the tree.

This tree is of great importance both culturally and historically for the people of South Korea. To begin with, the Gingko tree is the symbol of the city and its development. In addition, is has its “roots” in Confucianism It is believed that Confucius used to read, ponder and teach his students under a Gingko tree. This highly worshiped tree also represents longevity and enlightenment, which are important in Korean culture. This divine tree also looks over the tomb of King Yeonsan who was a ruler that was overthrown 500 years ago.

Koreans also believe that the tree has magical powers as well. It has been reported by the locals that the tree makes strange noises and has odd things happen to it just before danger, conflict or significant national events are going to occur. For example, when King Kojong died, one of its branches just dropped with no reason. And……… locals say that the tree made sounds for 2 months prior to the independence of Korea from Japan. The tree was also said to have made noises for 50 days before the beginning of the Korean War.

So this tree is definitely an important part of Korean history, culture and its belief system. With the preservation of this tree, the people of South Korea hope that it will live for another thousand years!

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By TTC veteran and mother of two, Elizabeth Andrews.