Celebrating the 77th Arbor Day on April 5, the Korea Forest Service (KFS) and Korea’s leading cryptocurrency operator Dunamu held a virtual tree planting event for five days on a metaverse platform to support the reforestation in Gyeongsangbuk-do.
The largest and longest-lasting forest fire in Korean history broke out in the eastern coastal county of Gyeongsangbuk-do, Uljin on March 4. Fortunately, there were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths. However, it took more than 200 hours to put out the wildfire about the size of 700 soccer fields. While the exact initial cause of the fire is yet to be identified, Greenpeace stated it was difficult to extinguish the fire due to reduced precipitation caused by the climate crisis.
The fire burnt down more than 600 buildings, including 319 houses, causing victims of housing and land loss. The National Disaster Relief Association, the Korean Red Cross, and domestic companies, along with volunteers, have supported the victims with emergency relief kits, tents, meal trucks, bottled water, snacks, and masks. The Gyeongsangbuk-do Psychological Recovery Support Center is also aiding the psychological recovery of the victims.
With many organizations holding various events to minimize the damages through donations and campaigns, a metaverse event entitled “Own-My-Tree” stood out, gaining great attention from the public.
Own-My-Tree is a virtual tree-planting campaign on Dunamu’s metaverse platform, 2ndblock. For every single tree planted on the metaverse, two trees will be planted in the fire-affected area in Gyeongsangbuk-do. Participants were guided to enter the virtual forest, 2nd forest, and collect items necessary for tree planting. According to the KFS, more than 10,000 trees are to be planted in the forest fire burned areas in April.
Participants were also given a Grucon, a voucher that can be traded with a seedling at local tree markets run by the National Forestry Cooperative Federation. The campaign ended successfully with a total of 20,000 people participating in the event. People even queued before the event opened on the second day, which led to the closing of the event in about 30 minutes. Choi Hyung-gyu, the deputy director of the Forest Resources Division in KFS, explained the purpose and outcome of the campaign.
“The campaign started with brainstorming ways to make it easier for the public to participate in tree planting,” Choi said. “With the rapid expansion of the metaverse industry recently, we thought using metaverse in forest policy would be the first public engagement policy that the government tries.”
According to Choi, he could not guarantee the success of the campaign at first.
“This is the first campaign we’ve tried this year, and time ran short while implementing the virtual forest and opening it,” Choi said. “However, it ended in great success with many people participating. Next year, we plan to widen the scope of applying metaverse so that more people can participate in the campaign.”
Shin Yeon-hak, the chief of the Department of Forest Management in Siheung, stressed the importance of this campaign. “Unlike the existing Arbor Day events, which physically involve and mobilize many people, the introduction of metaverse marked a turning point for more people to contribute to society,” he said.