Korea’s largest island and highest mountain tell tales of Earth’s history
Jeju Volcanic Islands and Lava Tubes World Heritage Site, Republic of South Korea
Jeju Island in the Republic of South Korea is not only the location of the 2012 IUCN World Conservation Congress – parts of it have also been recognized as a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to their outstanding aesthetic beauty and them bearing testimony to the history of the planet and the processes of volcanism.
The site has been added to the World Heritage list as a serial site in 2007, under the full name of “Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes”. It consists of three components:
Geomunoreum, regarded as the finest lava tube system of caves anywhere in the world, with its multicoloured carbonate roofs and floors, and dark-coloured lava walls; the fortress-like Seongsan Ilchulbong tuff cone, rising out of the ocean, a dramatic landscape; and Mount Halla, South Korea’s highest mountain, with its waterfalls, multi-shaped rock formations, and spectacular lake-filled crater.
Size and Location
Jeju Island is the Republic of Korea’s largest island and is located 130 km from its southern coast . Hallasan National Park, with its central feature Mount Halla, is located in the center of the Jeju. All parts of the World Heritage site together make up 18,846 hectares or about 10% of the island.
View images of the World Heritage site
Jeju Island offers visitors and experts a wide array of spectacular geological features:
It is one of the few large shield volcanoes in the world located over a hot spot on a stationary continental crust plate. It is distinguished by the Geomunoreum lava tube system, which is the most impressive and significant series of protected lava tube caves in the world, and includes a spectacular array of stalactites and other decorations, with an abundance and diversity unknown elsewhere within a lava cave. The Seongsan Ilchulbong tuff cone is exceptional in its structural and sedimentological characteristics.
Together with the two other components of the site, which showcase diverse and easily accessible volcanic features, the lava tube system is a magnificent demonstration for the understanding of global volcanism: It displays the unique spectacle of multi-coloured carbonate decorations adorning the roofs and floors, and dark-coloured lava walls, partially covered by a mural of carbonate deposits. The fortress-like Seongsan Ilchulbong tuff cone, with its walls rising out of the ocean, is a dramatic landscape feature. The volcano Mount Halla, with its array of textures and colours through the changing seasons, waterfalls, display of multi-shaped rock formations and columnar-jointed cliffs, and the towering summit with its lake-filled crater, further adds to the scenic and aesthetic appeal.
Flora and Fauna
The vegetation cover ranges from sub-alpine evergreen coniferous forest, dominated by the endemic Korean fir (Abies koreana), to temperate deciduous hardwood forest, in which Mongolian oak (Quercus mongolica) predominates. The flora includes some species endemic to Jeju Island and Korea, and species at their northern and southern distributional limits. Twenty-three mammal species are native to Jeju, including brown bear (Ursus arctos), Siberian weasel (Mustela sibirica), lynx (Lynx lynx) and roe deer (Capreolus pygargus). Four mammal species are endemic to the island.
The site is well managed and resourced, with a management plan in place. Key management issues include avoiding potential impact of agriculture on the underground geological features and managing the high number of visitors to the site.