South Korea: Seoul grapples with smelly gingko problem

By News from Elsewhere... found by BBC Monitoring

image copyrightAFP
image captionGingko trees in Seoul produce a beautiful display in autumn, but at a price

Fallen gingko nuts that stink of vomit have provoked articles and editorials in South Korean newspapers as officials in the country's capital grapple with how to get rid of them, it appears.

The gingko tree is famous for its spectacular yellow leaves in autumn which become a tourist attraction in some districts. The problem is that while Seoul's thousands of gingko trees produce nutritious nuts that are tasty when cooked, acid in the husks produces a smell that's offensive to the noses of local residents, the Korea JoongAng Daily reports. With over 114,000 gingko trees in the city, one-in-10 being female trees which produce the nuts, the smell can be overpowering in the autumn months. The problem is made worse by the fact that the trees are city property, and picking the fallen fruit is theft, meaning they are left to rot in the streets, the Korea Herald says.

One solution to the problem is to transplant the female trees elsewhere, and this operation - starting in November - will cost up to 25bn won ($22m; £14.3m), and will initially concentrate on bus stops and areas where people congregate. However, the Herald argues, it would be better - and cheaper - for the no-picking law to be lifted so that "the public will appreciate a chance to gather some berries... since they are prized delicacies of the season." As it is, the city employs 446 people to shake the trees and collect the nuts before they start to smell.

It's an issue that's not unique to Seoul. Last year, Japanese officials handed out nuts to residents, but admitted that the smell is the price to pay for such a beautiful autumnal display. Kim Bong-ho of the University of Seoul agrees: "Ecologically, nutritious fruits tend to smell bad," Kim said.

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