▲ Prof. Ibrahim Komoo (center) a Asian Global Geoparks Network coordinator and bureau member of the Global Geoparks Network and Dr. Guy Martini (left), a Global Geoparks Network Bureau member, support Jeju’s goal of holding the Asia Pacific Geoparks Network Assembly in 2013. Photo courtesy Jeju Special Self-Governing Province
On Oct. 3, 2010, at a meeting held on the Greek island of Lesbos, the Global Geoparks Network (GGN) named nine sites in Jeju as part of their network: Mt. Halla, Seongsan Sunrise Peak, Manjang Cave, Seogwipo Formation, Mt. Sanbang, Dragon Head Rock Cliff, Suwol Peak, Cheonjiyeon Waterfalls and Daepo Columnar Joint. That was the moment Jeju attained its “triple crown” status, having already earned both Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Natural Heritage site designations.
Having now been christened with this trinity of environmental honors for almost a year, the questions that arise are, how have Jeju’s Geopark sites been managed, how have they changed since last year, and what’s next?
On May 29, at the International Convention Center Jeju, the “International Seminar for Future Progress of Jeju Island Global Geopark and National Geoparks Network” was held to discuss the future of the Jeju Island Global Geopark and national Geopark networks in an attempt to answer some of these questions. Kang Seong Hu, director of the World Natural Heritage Management Bureau of Jeju Special Self-Governing Province gave a presentation on the Jeju Geopark progress in management and operations.
According to Kang’s presentation, the government integrated the management of the Biosphere Reserve, World Natural Heritage sites, and Geopark into one organization.
Because of this move, the province is now able to perform many duties like monitoring the nine Geopark sites twice a month, inspecting facilities and performing repairs when needed and was able to establish a new trail from the Seogwipo Formation to Suwol Peak.
The government has also focused on devising an effective means to improve public relations, said Kang, through placing 102 signs at the Biosphere Reserve, World Natural Heritage sites, and Geoparks, to give a rough explanation of the places and to promote Jeju’s “triple crown” status. They are also considering making new guide books and Web sites.
The provincial government is also in the process of creating trekking courses that connect to the Geoparks and educating the public so they can act as tour guides.
The central government announced in February that it plans to introduce a national Geopark system to systematically maintain sites of geological value. When the system is introduced, Jeju may be designated as a National Geopark without additional procedures and would receive systematic support from the nation.
The Jeju Geopark has influenced government policies and Jeju’s future plans. However, Geopark status is not permanent. All Global Geoparks are reevaluated every four years for the first eight years after designation. Experts in an array of fields evaluate whether the Geopark site has been preserved and maintained in superb condition. There have been cases where a Global Geopark status was revoked during a reevaluation; Malvern Hills of England and Mecklenburg of Germany, among others.
After three years, what comments would the Jeju Geopark receive? And how far will it have gone on the long journey of sustainable development? The attendants of the seminar proposed a direction for the Jeju Geopark.
Among the attendants was Dr. Guy Martini from France, a GGN bureau member. In his presentation on the basic concept of a Geopark, he suggested that the direction of sustainable development of the Geopark should offer both social equality and respect of local communities, and human diversity must also be celebrated. He also added in the interview with The Jeju Weekly, “For sustainable development of the Geopark, every territory should identify their heritage and protect it. Especially, Jeju’s traditional culture is very attractive to foreign people, and it is very important for local people to maintain it.”
Another dignitary, Prof. Ibrahim Komoo from Malaysia, coordinator of the Asian Global Geoparks Network and GGN bureau member, agreed, saying that we should strengthen geoheritage conservation, enhance the socio-economic development of local communities, and uphold sustainable development principles. In our interview he said, “All over the world, we have learned that mass tourism can destroy resources. I think it’s very crucial to manage mass tourism so that it will not destroy the resources, and we should try to have a balance between mass tourism and specialized tourism.”
The seminar was also attended by professors of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, related to the Lankawi Geopark in Malaysia, the first UNESCO-mandated Geopark. In that the Lankawi Geopark has many places similar to Jeju, their presentation of Geopark governance gave suggestions and models for the Jeju Geopark.
Dr. Mazlin Mokhtar said that in developing Lankawi, a balance was needed between environmental protection efforts and infrastructure development. Dr. Rahimah Abdul Aziz added that in the event that federal, state, and local systems of government exist (as in Malaysia), the various stakeholders and stake holdings need to be brought onto a common platform. Dr. Che Aziz Ali stressed a conservation-style approach, and Dr. Norzaini Azman explained the importance of public education about Geoparks and their core virtues.
After the seminar, the government signed an MOU with the Lankawi Development Authority, promising cooperation for the network of the Langkawi Geopark and the Jeju Geopark. It was the first step in the exchange of information between foreign Geoparks. The Jeju Provincial Government was trying to set up a sister relationship with Lankawi Geopark, to work together on conservation of geological resources and activation of Geopark education and tourism.
In addition, on May 30, at a press conference held in the provincial government building, Dr. Martini and Prof. Komoo announced, “We support the assignment of Jeju as the holding place of the Asia Pacific Geoparks Network assembly in 2013.” Prof. Komoo also promised to support Jeju’s project to establish an education center for the Asia Pacific Geoparks Network with UNESCO and GGN. “I hope that Jeju will grow as a global brand with GGN,” he said.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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