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Jeju celebrates world heritage site

Sept 18,2017
Jeju Island hosted some 3,500 people from 16 countries last week to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes becoming a World Natural Heritage site.

As part of the week-long celebrations, the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province signed on Monday a sister-region pact with the U.K.’s Giant’s Causeway, a Unesco World Heritage Site known for its black basalt columns, largely said to have been brought about by volcanic activity in the region.

Some 50 participants at the event at Lotte City Hotel on Monday also observed and participated in some traditions of Jeju Island, including a shamanistic ritual of the region, a traditional wedding, changing of the guards and calligraphy.

The Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes were designated as a World Natural Heritage site in May 2007, after Korea’s Cultural Heritage Administration and Jeju provincial government first listed the site on the World Natural Heritage site waiting list in 2001. They then conducted research on the site until 2005, and submitted it along with the formal application in 2006.

The site takes up some 188.45 square kilometers (46,456 acres), some 10 percent of Jeju Island, and includes Mt. Halla, Seongsan Ilchulbong, the volcanic cone Geomun Oreum and a number of caves including Gimnyeong, Manjang and Yongcheon. And it is drawing in more tourists.

“Ever since the Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes were designated as a World Natural Heritage site 10 years ago, we’ve had 42.5 million people visit the site from 2008 to July this year,” the Jeju provincial government said. “That’s 42.7 percent of 99.6 million visitors to Jeju Island in the same time frame.”

The provincial government said that those who came to Jeju just for its World Natural Heritage site between 2008 and 2015 numbered 3.8 million, of whom 1.5 million were foreigners. The provincial government, obtaining data via Jeju Research Institute, said that the designation of Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes as a World Natural Heritage site had brought in some 3.14 trillion won ($2.77 billion) for local businesses and induced some 5.2 trillion won worth of local production, from 2008 to 2015.

BY CHOI CHOONG-IL [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]