Boar caught in Seoul

Life’s A Boar: Wild Pig Sightings in Seoul Increase 11-Fold

Environment

Wild boars coming down to residential areas in Seoul from the mountain in search of food are increasing at an alarming rate.

On Nov. 17, Seoul Metropolitan Fire & Disaster Headquarters released data about the rise in boar encounters in Seoul. Emergency services revealed that over the span of five years, the frequency of wild boars entering urban Seoul had increased 11-fold, from 56 in 2012 to 623 in 2016 — most occurrences were in autumn (Sept.-Dec).

The boars have been spotted all over town, including apartment blocks, roads, parks, and even schools, with most sightings in the districts of Jongno, Eunpyeong and Seongbuk; all three surround Bukhansan National Park.

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A warning sign on a bus stop in Seoul: “Be aware of wild boars. Do not enter forest area.”

The boars have even been seen venturing into busy areas: In April this year, a feral boar reportedly ventured into Gwanghwamun, right next to the U.S. Embassy, while in May, one was spotted trotting in the busy streets of Hongdae.

A spokesperson from the PR team of Seoul Metropolitan Fire & Disaster Headquarters said, “In an ecosystem there are no more predators, the boar is now at the top of the food chain in Korea. They also reproduce prolifically, giving birth to approximately 5-7 piglets by the age of two. Due to city development and road constructions, their habitats have become more restricted, giving rise to the jump in boars visiting downtown.”

The boars are extremely dangerous, added the spokesperson, who agreed to be identified only by his surname Song. “Boars tend to have an aggressive character, especially when in an environment different from their own. When they venture out into the city in search for food, they are exposed to cars, sounds and smells that make them agitated.”

“When a case is reported, emergency services will attempt to tranquilize and capture the boar,” Song told Korea Exposé.

A wild boar hunt in Dogok-dong, Seoul. (Source: Courtesy of Seoul Metropolitan Fire & Disaster Headquarters)

In order to tackle the problem of feral boars coming into the city, the Ministry of Environment launched a program in 2016 called “Bukhansan Boars Back to the Mountain!” in collaboration with Seoul government and Korea National Park Services.

The initiative seeks to prevent the pigs from descending into town by improving their habitat, setting up traps and installing steel fences, and prohibiting the harvest of wild fruit, on which the boars feed.

The Ministry decided to extend the program in 2017, with the goal of reducing the number of reported sightings of wild boars in urban areas by 30 percent.

Meanwhile, Seoul’s emergency services are advising citizens to be more aware about what to do in case of a close encounter:

  • If confronted by a wild boar, look at it straight in the eyes in a calm and still position (running or screaming might make it attack you).
  • Do not show that you are frightened, for example, by showing your back to the animal. This can provoke it.
  • Do not do anything to harm the boar.
  • Avoid quickly dodging for cover. This is because wild boars get agitated by fast moving objects.
  • Be aware that boars are more violent during the mating season (Nov-Dec).

 

Cover: Boar caught in Seoul by emergency services. (Source: Courtesy of Seoul Metropolitan Fire & Disaster Headquarters)

Raphael is a freelance journalist and fixer. He has an MA in Korean Studies from Korea University, and worked at Edelman Korea for three years representing some of South Korea's biggest conglomerates.