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Marine clinic safeguards sealifeHanwha Aqua Planet is known for its record size, but the value of its medical team is less measurable
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승인 2014.07.30  11:06:24
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▲ The team at Hanwha Aqua Planet attend to a shark at Hanwha Medical Clinic. Photo courtesyHanwha Medical Clinic

Hanwha Aqua Planet made headlines when it opened as Asia’s biggest aquarium in July 2012. With a floor space of 25,600 square meters, 10,800 tons of water and about 48,000 aquatic animals of 500 different species, it is firmly established as one of Jeju’s top tourist attractions.

At the qualitative level, too, the aquar-ium is set apart from the rest, being a leader in marine animal conservation. In December 2013, the aquarium unveiled the Hanwha Medical Clinic, which, as the first of its kind in Korea, took 18 months longer to open. Doctor Hong Won-hui, who leads the center and studied in the US and Canada, is also the first doctor of her kind in Korea.

Despite all the firsts, the clinic is much like any other. There are no pungent fishy odors, nor obscure substances or waste products. It’s very clean and sterile, with the medical equipment familiar to anyone who has been on a hospital ward. It also carries that same feeling of trepidation in the air, as any outsider would observe upon walking into a room of needles, test tubes, x-ray devices, and countless other medical machines.

The medical center has many purposes. Hong and the fish disease specialist there work tirelessly with the aquarium animals to keep them healthy and to aid in their reproduction. This in itself is a full-time job considering the sheer number of animals at Aqua Planet, but they also are on call to rescue sea creatures all around Jeju that are stranded or helpless.

▲ Dr Hong Won-hui is the only medical veterinarian of her kind in Korea. Photo courtesy

Jeju waters are home to many endan-gered species and part of the mission of the Hanwha Medical Center is to protect these species by educating the public. They are working with local law enforcement around the island so they know what to do and who to call in an emergency. Signs are being updated and placed in greater quantities at local beaches all around the island so tourists and residents alike can be aware of the local wildlife and have a set of guidelines and actions to take if necessary.

Hong and her staff work with over 500 species of fish, marine mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and birds. It’s an extremely large undertaking for such a small center, but there are hopes it can grow. Hong attends every conference regarding Jeju and Korean marine wildlife to stress her case for a bigger and better center. The current size limits the capabilities of how many animals it can rescue and how much it can be involved in the Jeju Island community.

Right now most attention is directed toward dolphins and turtles but Hong wants to broaden that scope to include more sharks and rays, which are often trapped in the nets used by local fishermen. Expanding the center would allow the team to care for these animals and keep their numbers from decreasing.

Since the Hanwha Medical Center opened in the summer of 2013, it has achieved a great deal, saving many animals' lives and aiding in the reproduction of many others, although this doesn’t stop Hong feeling conflict about keeping the animals in captivity.

As I chatted with her for over an hour, her passion and dedication shone through and it was clear she only has the animals’ best intentions at heart. Hong is doing remarkable things at Hanwha Medical Center and it can only be hoped that the center can grow to treat more animals in need of help.

Hanwha Aqua Planet
95 Seopjikoji-ro, Seongsan-eup, Seogwipo-si
10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (open all year round/last entry 5:50 p.m.)
(Summer Weekdays) 9:30 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. (Summer Weekends) 9:30 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Adults: 39,000
Secondary school students: 37,300
Children: (36 months through elementary ages): 35,400
*30 percent discount for Jeju residents.

Special events: Diving experience
Dive into the 11m-deep main aquarium with professional divers and swim with the marine animals.
Everyday at: 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m. (takes 90 minutes)
Ages: 9 to 59 years old
Prior reservation needed
140,000 won per person (15 percent discount for online booking)

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