National Geographic : 2016 Jan
This Is Your Brain On Nature 63 forest burials. A government-run “happy train” takes kids who’ve been bullied into the woods for two days of camping. A hundred-million- dollar healing complex is under construction next to Sobaeksan National Park. Korea Forest Service scientists used to study timber yields; now they also distill essential oils from trees such as the hinoki cypress and study them for their ability to reduce stress hormones and asthma symptoms. In the new industrial city of Deajun, I pay a visit to the forest minister, Shin Won Sop, a social scientist who has studied the effects of forest therapy on alcoholics. Hu- man well-being, he tells me, is now a formal goal of the nation’s forest plan. Thanks to the new policies, visitors to Korea’s forests increased from 9.4 million in 2010 to 12.8 million in 2013. “Of course we still use forests for timber,” Shin says. “But I think the health area is the fruit of the forest right now.” His agency has data suggesting that forest healing reduces medical costs and benefits local economies. What’s still needed, he says, is better data on specific dis- eases and on the natural qualities that make a difference. “ What are the main factors in the forest that are most responsible for the physi- ological benefits, and what types of forests are more effective?” Shin asks.