Jeju Volcanoes, Caves Registered as World Natural Heritage
Volcanoes and lava tubes on Jeju Island were registered as World Natural Heritage, today Wednesday.
It is the first time for a South Korean natural heritage to be put on the list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee decided to register Jeju volcanic island and lava tubes at the 31st session held in Christchurch, New Zealand, accepting the recommendation from the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).
The registered nature heritage consists of three main sites - Mt. Halla, Seongsan Ilchulbong tuff ring, and Geomunoreum lava tube system. The sites cover areas of 188.4 square kilometers, 10.1 percent of Jeju Island's total size.
Jeju Island is a gently sloping shield volcano and the 1,950-meter high peak in the center is Mt. Halla, Natural Monument No. 182.
Seongsan Ilchulbong, or Sunrise Peak, is an archetypal tuff cone formed about 100,000 years ago. It is a scenic point with a bowl-like crater and cliffs, especially spectacular at sunrise.
The lava tube system includes Geomun Oreum, a parasitic cone about 20 kilometers northeast of Mt. Halla, and five lava tubes that were formed by lava from the oreum _ Manjangul, Gimnyeonggul, Yongcheondonggul, Dangcheomuldonggul and Bengdwigul.
The inside of Yongcheondonggul, or Yongcheon Cave, on Jeju. Microtopographic features are preserved in the 2,470-meter-long lava tube.
The nation applied for the registration in January last year, and a team of IUCN members conducted an inspection last October.
``Jeju's natural beauty has been internationally certified. The registration has enhanced Jeju's pure image together with UNESCO's earlier designation of the island as biosphere reserve,'' said an official from the Jeju World Natural Heritage Promotion Committee.
``The registration will improve worldwide recognition on Jeju Special Self-Governing Province and bring many tourists to the island,'' he said.
The official cited Ha Long Bay as an example: the annual number of visitors to the Vietnamese scenic attraction was 236,000 in 1996 when it was registered as World Natural Heritage, but increased by 6.4-fold to 1.5 million in 2005.
After the announcement of Jeju's registration, Yoo Hong-joon, administrator of the Cultural Heritage Administration, proposed UNESCO hold the 34th session in 2010 in Jeju.
By Kim Rahn
The Korea Times Staff Reporter