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Ancient Futures: Learning from Lake Ilgam
Lee Soo-hyun, Editor | 승인 2020.07.01 15:58


  Pure water, soil, and air leave the Earth a blue planet, but environmental pollution is taking the gleam off it. Normally, nature would purify itself, but pollution beyond these limits poses a threat to the surrounding ecosystem. As nature, such as a wood or a lake, loses its own properties, the damage eventually returns to humans. Lake Ilgam in Jangan Plain always brings this reality closer to Konkuk University students. Therefore, the Konkuk Bulletin inquire into the humanistic values and environmental issues of the lake and finds ways for everyone to coexist.


1. The History of Lake Ilgam
  Lake Ilgam is located inside Konkuk University. This has an undertone, “Just as the lake is clear only when the spring water continues to flow, the study must constantly be renewed and polished.” Lake Ilgam has a rich history with humanistic and environmental values.

  In days gone by, Lake Ilgam was used as a fish farm. In winter, people even skated on the frozen lake. Currently, the ice has become thinner, making it difficult to use as the ice rink. A night fishing contest had also been held during a festival. However, the environment became unclean due to hundreds of participants, and it has no longer been held.

  Nowadays, there remain turtles, basses, and carps. On the lake is an unmanned artificial islet called Wau Island. The island has its own ecosystem. Birds, such as herons, mallards, and cormorants, which are hard to see in the downtown live there. In addition, geese,  sparrows, and ducks often come to Cheongshimdae.

  The lake is as wide as ever, and trees are growing around it, creating a unique view like a park larger than the usual university campus. Moreover, Hongyegyo Bridge next to the lake adds uniqueness. Cheongshimdae has become a resting place for students and ordinary residents in their daily lives.


2. The Pollution of Environment and an Ecosystem

1) The Ruination of the Natural Environment
Water Analysis
  There are typical criterions for dividing water quality ratings, and COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand) is one of them. In the analytical chemistry experiment class, COD measurements are performed, and the water in Lake Ilgam is commonly graded from the third to the fourth. The third grade means a water quality that cannot be used as drinking water, even if put through chemical process. What is worse, the fourth grade can narrowly be used as an industrial water, after undergoing a high level of purification.

  Green floatage on Lake Ilgam is alga. These algae are microbes that are hard to see as a single entity with the naked eye, but they look like green dregs when they are gathered. These have the water become non-drinkable and even the selfpurification ability meaningless. Furthermore, the more algae there are, the more oxygen in the water is exhausted, making other creatures difficult to live.

Enduring Issues
  Until the early 1990s, underground water was raised from the mountain behind Doctor Yoo Sang-huh's grave, but it was stopped due to problems such as excessive electricity bills, and then the water quality deteriorated sharply. In the early 2010s, lotus leaves were covering the lake and disrupting the circulation. To improve this, personnel had removed all the lotus leaves. However, the algal bloom is still happening, and the fundamental problem remains unresolved.

  There could be natural contamination by microbes, such as viruses, bacteria, and protozoans, in the lake with less purification. This pollution could endanger underwater life. It also causes fatal diseases if humans drink or touch such water. Due to the high level of pollution, Lake Ilgam do not have a variety of organisms that can survive, and only microbes, animal plankton, and fish with biological viability live in there.


2) The Violation of the Living Environment
  In spring, the temperature slowly rises, and the odor of Lake Ilgam begins to smell. By the time of summer, the algal bloom and the repulsive stench makes it difficult to walk near the lake. High temperatures and humidity are a good environment for floating algae to actively grow. This is the reason of the fishy odor. In addition, the filth of animals covers the roads whitely all year round. As a result, the gas emitted during the decomposition of filth drifts in the atmosphere. Besides, students living in the dormitory near the lake even say, “it is too hard to ventilate their rooms due to the intolerable smell.”

Harmful Influence
  Air pollution refers to the state in which pollutants above the self-purification capacity are released into the atmosphere. This causes discomfort to a considerable number of people and impedes the life of animals and plants. Practically, air pollutants entering the human body through the respiratory tract activate cytokines that cause systemic inflammation and subsequent oxidation stress. In other words, the gas and odor around Lake Ilgam could pose a potential risk in the long run for students who need to be provided with a safe educational environment.

Vicious Loops
  Filth absorbed by the ground for a long time is difficult to erase in a short period of time and could be washed away by rainwater into the lake. These pollutants are gradually purified by actions, such as sedimentation, oxidation, decomposition, and evaporation, but water pollution occurs as they continue to flow in the lake exceeding the purification speed. As a result, ignoring environmental issues in the school would lead to a vicious circle, where soil infection has the effect of creating air contamination and causing water pollution again.


3. The Corresponding Measure of the University
1) Does the Konkuk university recognize the actual condition of Lake Ilgam?
Safety Management Division: Lake Ilgam, a stagnant artificial lake, has a low amount of flowing water compared to its area, which is likely to cause algae. According to the Framework Act on Environmental Policy, the water quality of lakes is classified into seven grades, and Lake Ilgam belongs to the third or fourth grade. This indicates a moderate level.

General Services Division: The vicinity of Lake Ilgam is frequented by outsiders and students, so we inspect there from time to time. However, there is little control over filth on the road.

2) What are preservation methods for Lake Ilgam and the surroundings?
Safety Management Division: About 300 tons of underground water flow into the lake through the pump every day from Gunja Station, New Millennium Hall, and New Engineering Building. To prevent deterioration of water quality, personnel are also doing activities to inspect and clean up the lake. From May to September, we drive motorboats for one hour each in the morning and afternoon to mix the water. In addition, the quality of water is examined by a professional company between June and August.

General Services Division: The personnel collect the garbage every morning to maintain the neatness of the surroundings. At least four times a year, weeds that grow around the lake are removed.


4. The Points of Reforming Henceforward

1) The Ruination of the Natural Environment

  Lake Ilgam has shown no sign of improvement despite steady management. This is because the amount of circulating water is insufficient. Adding dissolved oxygen by motorboats or a waterwheel and supplying clean water is also a half measure. Considering the values of the lake, other measures should now be taken to revive the natural environment. Stagnant water is bound to rot. Therefore, the organic matter needs to be removed, forcing the water to circulate above all.

  Presently, sludge about 0.7m thick is located at the bottom of Lake Ilgam. In that the area of the lake is 55,000m2, the volume is about 385,000m3. The sedimentary sludge is a collection of pollutants in addition to soil, which adversely affect the underwater ecosystem. It should be eliminated to help give rise to a purification. This cannot be completed within one or two years of work, and a 10-year plan should be drawn up and pursued over the long term.

  When dredging work is carried out, black sediment covering the floor is clean wiped. Water weed and floatage also disappear neatly. The dredger travels at a constant speed and levels the bottom. As a result, the lake may have a visually clear color and a purity close to first-class water, which is also beneficial to the creatures.

2) The Beautification of the School Environment
  Lake Ilgam has become a symbol of Konkuk University with its beautiful scenery, but the surrounding environment which is polluted by filth causes inconvenience. The school has only cleared garbage and weeds away and has not discussed filth. However, in the light of students' rights, maintaining the condition is inappropriate, and attempts should be made to renew the campus.
  Basically, as employees brush the road down with water, the vestiges of filth would be removed. A street sweeper mainly used in cities could be operated periodically. It is also possible to cooperate with local governments for help about cleaning the outdoors. This is expected to take a long time to fully recover, because it has been neglected since the formation of Lake Ilgam.
  Moreover, given the complex factors, consultations between the divisions must be made for a fundamental solution. Consideration of the environment to be affected by artificial interference is also required. There is a precedent in which professors from related fields made a committee and write a report on the ecosystem of Lake Ilgam about ten years ago. On this basis, theoretical discussions among experts is necessary to work in earnest.


  Students lay a year on campus in their minds, staring at the vista of Lake Ilgam which alters along with four seasons. However, the lake has been gradually polluted over the years and might lose its original meaning. Konkuk University is a place where not only students but also all creatures dwelling there breathe. The school and students have the right to lead the harmony of nature and living environment and should fulfill duties to care about the cleanliness of campus. May the lake gleam with natural hues. Lake Ilgam is not only an ancient reminiscence but also a glorious future for us all.


1) A process by which pollution from such sources as sewage effluent or leachate from fertilized fields causes a lake, pond, or fen to become overrich in organic and mineral nutrients, so that algae and cyanobacteria grow rapidly and deplete the oxygen supply

2) A poisonous or foul-smelling gas, especially as emitted from the earth



Lee Soo-hyun, Editor  sylvie8@konkuk.ac.kr

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