A Proud Record of UNESCO Designations
UNESCO designated Jeju a Biosphere Reserve in 2002, a World Natural Heritage site in 2007, and it received Global Geopark Network certification in 2010. It is a trifecta unique in the world.
Jeju Island was designated a National Biosphere conservation area in 2002, a World Natural Heritage site in 2007, and received Global Geopark Network certification in 2010. It is the only area in the world that has achieved these three accolades at the same time. In addition, Jeju benefits from a wide range of ecological and geological features. This includes islands, volcanoes, waterfalls, beaches, national parks, caves and forests.
Nature is not handed down from our ancestors, but from future generations. While UNESCO looked for ways to coexist with nature without being destroyed by humans, it created a program called the "Nature Conservation Program" in 1971 under the Human and Biological Rights Initiative (MAB). Biosphere conservation areas have become internationally designated areas by UNESCO, and local residents can benefit from their local products and brands.
As of 2016, there are 669 areas of conservation in 120 countries. In the Republic of Korea, this includes Seoraksan Mountain (1982), Jeju Island (2002), Sinan Dadohae (2009), Gwangreung Forest (2010), and Gochang (2013), among others. The biosphere consists of core areas, buffer areas, and areas where biodiversity protection is the top priority. They are surveyed, studied, and monitored, respectively. The core areas are Hallasan National Park's Yeongcheon, Hyodongcheon Natural Reserve, Seopseom Island, and the Munseom and Beomseom Natural Reserve.
Jeju Island is an oval shaped island about 73km x 31km, totaling some 1,848km2. At a height of 1,950 meters, Hallasan Mountain towers over the island at its center. Its volcanic origins give Jeju a variety of unique topographic features, making the entire island a "volcano museum." Some 368 volcanic cones, or oreum, dot the island. There are an estimated 160 subterranean lava caves/tubes scattered all through the island.
According to the UNESCO World Natural Heritage website: “The idea of creating an international movement for protecting heritage emerged after World War I. The 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage developed from the merging of two separate movements: the first focusing on the preservation of cultural sites, and the other dealing with the conservation of nature.”
In June 2007, the World Heritage Committee unanimously named Jeju as one of the Natural Heritage Sites in Korea under the name of Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes. This covers some 10 areas including Hallasan National Park, Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak, and the Geomunoreum Lava Tube System.
A geopark is “a territory encompassing one or more sites of scientific importance, not only for geological reasons but also by virtue of its archaeological, ecological or cultural value.” The Global Geoparks Network program aims to enhance the value of sites of scientific interest while at the same time creating employment and promoting regional economic development. The Global Geopark Network program works in synergy with UNESCO's World Heritage Centre and Man and the Biosphere (MAB) World Network of Biosphere Reserves. GGN, established in coordination with European Geoparks Network (EGN) in 2004, has brought together some 77 geoparks from 25 countries (as of 2011). Jeju Island was designated a Global Geopark Network site in October 2010.
The Culture of Jeju Haenyeo (women divers) of the Republic of Korea was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2016. According to the official UNESCO website: “Designated by the provincial government as representing the island’s character and people’s spirit, the culture of Jeju haenyeo has contributed to the advancement of women’s status in the community and promoted environmental sustainability with its eco-friendly methods and community involvement in management of fishing practices.”
“In Jeju Island, there is a community of women, some aged in their 80s, which goes diving 10m under the sea to gather shellfish, such as abalone or sea urchins for a living without the help of oxygen masks. With knowledge of the sea and marine life, the Jeju haenyeo harvest for up to seven hours a day, 90 days of the year holding their breath for just one minute for every dive and making a unique verbal sound when resurfacing. Divers are categorised into three groups according to level of experience: hagun, junggun and sanggun with the sanggun offering guidance to the others. Before a dive, prayers are said to the Jamsugut, goddess of the sea, to ask for safety and an abundant catch. Knowledge is passed down to younger generations in families, schools, local fishery cooperatives which have the area’s fishing rights, haenyeo associations, The Haenyeo School and Haenyeo Museum.”
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