“We look forward to the living sea again.”

The romantic crystal blue sea of the Taean national seashore park, which was known for its beautiful beach, sand dunes and sunset, turned into a black sea of hopelessness, after the oil spill disaster occurred on December 7, 2007. The oil spill which was estimated with a volume of 12,500 kiloliters destroyed the seashore ecosystem, and the local people fell in great despair.

However, the world is surprised at the volunteer effort of the Korean people, which started from the end of last year and continued up until today, in order to wipe out the darkness and deliver hope to the local people. On December 20, 150 IWF members from the Chungnam province started their volunteer relief effort at Hakampo Beach locate in Wonbuk-myeon, Taean-gun. On December 26, the members from Boryeong visited Sapsido Island located in Ocheon-myeon, Boryeong-si, and cleaned the oil-polluted area with all their strength.

The oil clean-up activity was delayed for several days due to a snowstorm and cold weather. On January 3, the restoration work resumed and Chairwoman Zahng Gil-jah and the directors together with 310 IWF members from the Seoul metropolitan area and the Chungnam province carried out the 3rd volunteer work. The destination was Hakampo Beach that had been visited at the 1st volunteer effort. Chairwoman Zahng Gil-jah stopped by the Taean county office and offered consolation to the local people, delivering 10 million won for charity. She stated, “Even though you are in deep sorrow because of the sudden disaster, all the IWF members and the Korean people are putting minds together to support you. Please be strong.” Jin Tae-gu, Head of Taean county, said on behalf of the residents, “Seeing the volunteers, I feel that our fellow Koreans are great. We will be able to overcome this difficult situation with your volunteer services.”

On Hakampo Beach, there were still many places that needed the hands of volunteers. The sandy plain that had been cleaned up last time was quite clean, but the rocks that boasted of its beauty were polluted even though 20 days passed by after the tragedy happened. The bottoms of large rocks and the whole parts of small rocks were covered with black oil.

Equipped with work suits, boots and rubber gloves, the members started to remove the oil. They wiped every nook and corner of the rocks covered with tar, and even lifted up light stones to clean the bottom of them. There were also gravel, sand and soil which were too small to be cleaned one by one. The volunteers put cloth on them and rubbed them by their feet. Then they put the gravel, sand and soil into sacks to carry to the washing place. Looking at the rocks covered with the spilt oil as black as coal, and looking at the crude oil popping up like an oil field when they moved rocks, the volunteers worried about the local people.

Around noon, because of the high tide the volunteers stopped working and rested. The IWF members from the Seosan branch brought some cup noodles, beef soup with vegetables, bread and tea. They offered them to both the IWF members and other volunteers.

After the meal, the members became busier than in the morning. They wiped the dregs of tar off the stones in order to clean as much as possible in the time given to them, despite the unfavorable cold weather and wind.
Chairwoman Zahng Gil-jah dug up the soil and gravel covered with the crude oil and encouraged the members, saying, “It’s different from what the press reported. They said that most of the area was cleaned, but here we see there are still much oil between the rocks. I hope more people volunteer to get rid of the oil until it is all removed.” IWF Director Kim Hae-suk said, “All the media must inform the public of how serious the situation is so that more people may participate in this relief effort.”

As the time for finishing the work approached, all the volunteers formed a queue to move the sacks filled with soil and gravel. Although black scum will attach to the rocks again at the full tide, as long as volunteers continue to work, the residents will overcome the trials and rise up again. The county official said, “At present, there is no other way but cleaning up the area over and over again. I appreciate people’s volunteer effort.” Many banners, which had words of gratitude to the volunteers, were fluttering in the wind on the road.

After the crude oil spill, many species have disappeared. Barnacles, clams, gastropods were covered with black oil and fell down feebly when we touched them. The members who took part in the volunteer relief effort twice at Hakampo Beach testified, “Last time when we dug up the sand, there were heap of dead lugworms and no living creatures.” It is reported that 46 different species of fish died and all the seagulls flew away for the lack of prey.

Experts say that it will take approximately 20 years to restore the ruined ecosystem. However that time will be cut short if the whole nation works together. The IWF members said, “We would like to help the fishermen whose livelihood has depended on the sea.” IWF will continue to remove the black oil from the sea and help the fishermen regain hope until all 2,500 species of sea creatures can move back to the beautiful blue sea, sand dunes and rocks and stones.