Main content
This programme is not currently available on BBC iPlayer

South Korea: Earth's Hidden Wilderness

Beyond the bustling cities of South Korea, pockets of untouched wilderness provide a home to remarkable species of wildlife such as the raccoon dog and the fishing spider.

Once a mountain kingdom of ancient palaces and emperors, Korea in the 21st century is largely known for its modern cities and decades of conflict. Tensions between North and South may be what defines it to outsiders but beyond the battle scars there is another side. In the south are large pockets of untouched wilderness where extraordinary animals flourish and Koreans continue to practise age-old traditions in tandem with the seasons and with nature. It is in these connections, rather than in division, that we see the true Korea.

At the southernmost tip of the peninsular we follow a pod of bottlenose dolphins through the volcanic islands of Jeju. They click at each other as they encounter a human in their midst, but the dolphins know this diver - they have shared the ocean with the Haenyeo, or sea women, for thousands of years. We travel to the isolated island of Marado, where three generations of sea women are preparing for a dive. Today is the start of the conch season, and they work whatever the weather to maximise their catch.

In the grounds of an ancient palace on the mainland, a raccoon dog family takes advantage of a rare event. Once every five years, hundreds of cicadas emerge providing a feast for the raccoon. Those that escape make for the safety of the trees, where they metamorphosise into their flying form.

On the mud flats of Suncheon Bay we find a habitat that is neither land nor sea. Only recently has the ecological value of mudflats been recognised. A staggering 50 per cent of the earth's oxygen is produced by phytoplankton - microscopic algae that are found here in abundance. That is why the mudflats are known locally as the lungs of the earth. Plankton is far from the only life here - the mud of the bay is rich in nutrients and supports one of the most diverse ecosystems on the peninsula. We follow the story of a young mudskipper who has emerged for his first mating season.

58 minutes

Last on

Sat 6 Oct 2018 17:30


Role Contributor
Expert Yong Soon Park
Expert Jeon Hye Min
Expert Haw Ok Ra
Expert Kim Hwa Ja
Expert Soon Kim
Expert Jae Yeom Kim
Expert Soon Ja Park
Expert Choon Geom Kim
Expert Wal Soo Ra
Director James Reed
Executive Producer Caroline Hawkins
Production Manager Jennie Baker
Producer Philip Jones
Composer William Goodchild & The Insects
Editor Bobby Sheikh
Executive Producer Claire Birks
Camera Operator Benjamin Sadd
Writer Anne Sommerfield
Writer Matt Houghton
Writer Hazel Marshall
Narrator Arthur Lee
Director of photography Wanho Lim
Camera Operator Graham MacFarlane
Photographer Dong Sik Kim
Photographer Mark Payne-Gill
Photographer Ki Soo Sung
Colourist Blair Wallace
Camera Assistant Sung Hyun Kim
Camera Assistant Yong Soo Shin
Re-recording mixer Ben Peace
On-line editing James Beynon
Executive Producer Chang Soo Lee
Location Manager Sang Sup Yeom
Technical Director Dae Geun Park
Production Manager Cecillia Park
Assistant Producer Steve Do
Assistant Producer Harry Bang
Executive Producer Jae Hyuk Lee
Producer Ji Yun Lee
Producer Kye Young Kim
Assistant Producer Keun Uk Cho
Executive Producer Martin Meszaros
Executive Producer Sabine Holzer
Line Producer Wolfgang Knopfler
Unit Manager Dinah Czezik-Muller
Production Manager Sarah Norenberg
Production Company Oxford Scientific Films


  • Sun 11 Feb 2018 20:00
  • Sun 18 Feb 2018 15:15
  • Sat 29 Sep 2018 18:30
  • Sat 6 Oct 2018 17:30