|▲ Udo island is one of the three additional Geopark sites, bringing the total to 12. Photo courtesy Jeju Special Self-Governing Province
Jeju Tourism Organization announced on March 25 that Udo, Biyangdo and Seonheul Gotjawal had been added to Jeju’s Geopark sites, bringing the Jeju total to 12 from nine. A second Geotrail was also opened on April 5 at Sanbangsan-Yeongmeori, adding to Suwolbong which opened in 2011.
The UNESCO-affiliated Global Geoparks Network (GGN) works to designate and protect the world’s geo-heritage through conservation, education and geo-tourism. A Geopark is defined as:
“[A] nationally protected area con-taining a number of geological heritage sites of particular importance, rarity or aesthetic appeal. These Earth heritage sites are part of an integrated concept of protection, education and sustainable development.”
GGN is a voluntary network created in 2001. Jeju was announced as its 20th member in Lesvos, Greece, on Oct. 4, 2010 and there are now 30 member countries and 100 sites worldwide.
While GGN seeks to conserve inter-nationally significant geological heritage, it also explores, develops and celebrates the links between that geological heritage and the designated area’s natural, cultural and intangible heritages.
At the 3rd Asia Pacific Geoparks Network Jeju Symposium last year, Professor Ibrahim Komoo, Coordinator of the Asia Pacific Geopark Network, lamented that “not many people really understand Geoparks.” He stressed that it is about much more than just promulgating conservation laws.
True geo-tourism, said Komoo, would not be “an extension of traditional tourism,” but rather an appreciation of “the feeling of fragility [of] the history of the earth.” Wanting to see meaningful community engagement and consultation, Komoo stressed that the principle of the Geopark is bottom up and self-custodian, yet he warned that Korea had created the laws, “but the rest is not there.”
“I believe the way forward is by having many small local projects ... like Geopark food, or cooperatives between local people ... we are talking about how that conservation area can be used for promoting economic development,” said Komoo.
With the addition of three new Geopark sites and new Geotrails, it remains to be seen if local officials have truly heeded his advice.
The three new Geopark sites
Udo Island:Formed when shallow rising magma reacted violently with the water surface and then cooled, Udo, off of Jeju’s east coast, contains globally rare red algae nodule (fossilized algae) which form some of the local beaches.
Geotrails: A Course: 16 k.m./5 hours 30 mins.; B Course: 5 k.m./1 hour 20 mins.
Biyangdo Island: This island in Jeju’s northwest is valuable due to the rare combination of craters and volcanic bombs in the vicinity. It is formed of rough basalt and displays a variety of terrain and scenery.
Geotrails: A Course: 3 k.m./1 hour; B Course: 2.8 k.m./1 hour
Seonheul Gotjawal: The Seonheul tract of gotjawal, Jeju’s unique woodland on a shelf of volcanic rock which natu-rally percolates and replenishes Jeju’s groundwater, is particularly diverse with 200 species of plants.
Geotrails: A Course: 5 k.m./1 hour 30 minutes; B Course: 4 k.m./1 hour
The Jeju Tourism Organization (JTO) added the three additional sites after 12-months of research to find the island’s three best geological, historical, cultural and ecological sites to match Geopark criteria. Community-based Geopark services will be developed at these sites including visitor centers, guided walks and UNESCO-branded Geo-foods.
Officials hope that the Geopark concept can become a “new model of tourist development” across the island as part of the government’s “creative economy.” In addition to the natural beauty, visitors will learn local culture and history through guides and signage.
A new Geotrail
On April 5, Seogwipo City and the JTO also held an opening event for a new Geotrail developed in Andeok-myeon, Seogwipo City. The Sanbangsan-Yongmeori Geotrail follows the “Geotourism” concept, synthesizing culture, history and ecology in collaboration with local villagers.
The trails, showcasing the intertwined nature of geology and local culture through “Geo-talks,” are a core component of the "UNESCO World Geopark core village revitalization project” and are supported by the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Livestock.
Two courses skirt east and west of Sanbangsan, taking in both the coast and the interior, including the villages of Sagye-ri, Deoksu-ri and Hwasun, and local geological features such as Hyeongje-seom islet and Mt. Songaksan. Visitors can learn about prehistoric footprints, traditional pottery and the cultural significance of springs and gotjawal woodland.
A review of this new trail is available here. For more information about GGN visit globalgeopark.org.