Wonder Islands of Korea
Hallyeohaesang National Park, South Korea
Hallyeo’ is a composite word derived from the names of the two regions ‘Hansando’ and ‘Yeosu’. Hallyeohaesang National Park encompasses the islands and the sea between these two regions, stretching along the most beautiful part of Korea’s south coast. The ensemble of sea, islands, rocky cliffs and sandy beaches creates a breath taking scenery.
The park is famous for the thousands of camellias covering Odongdo Island, and for the Palsonyi Tree, a tree with hand-shaped leaves native to Bijindo Island. The park also features the largest beach of the Korean south coast, Sangju Beach, which is two kilometers long and 150 meters wide and composed of silver-white sand.
Designated in 1968 as one of the first national marine protected areas in Korea, Hallyeohaesang National Park compiles 69 uninhabited and 30 inhabited islands. However, the larger part of the park is open sea. Most Koreans have heard of places like Yeosu Odongdo Island, Namhae Geumsan Mountain or Geoje Haegeumgang River, all being situated in Hallyeohaesang National Park. More than one million people visit this protected area each year.
The park is managed by the Korean National Park Service (KNPS) and is certified as a Category II Protected Area under the IUCN Protected Area Management Categories. Conservation activities are carried out in accordance with relevant laws, the national plan for natural parks, and the management plan for Hallyeohaesang national park.
View images of the park
Size and Location
The national park covers a total area of 545 km2, with 395.49 km2 being marine area and 150.14 km2 being land. Parts of the park are situated in Gyeongnam Province, while others lie in Jeonnam Province.
Flora and Fauna
Hallyeohaesang National Park is home to a diverse flora and fauna, both above and below the water surface. Overall there are 25 mammal species, 115 bird species, 16 reptile species, 1,566 insect species, 24 freshwater fish species and 1,142 plant species to be found in the park.
Emblematic marine animals include the Finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides), the Common gorgonian (Gorgonia ventalina), sea urchins (Hemicentrotus pulcherrimus) and Aplysia kurodai, a black sea slug with white spots.
Among the many terrestrial animals are the Ootter (Lutra sp.), Small-eared cat, and Badger (Meles leucurus). During the migrating season, thousand of sea birds can be observed in the park.
Major tree species include Korean Pine (Pinus koraiensis), Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thunbergii), Serrata Oak (Quercus serrata) and Cork Oak (Quercus suber). The park’s vast pine forests and the blossom of the Common camellia (Camellia japonica) in spring are two of its main attractions, appealing to many visitors. The park also features various rare plant species, such as Nadopungnan (Sedirea japonica), Daeheongnan (Cymbidium nipponicum) and the Korean winter hazel (Corylopsis gotoana var. coreana).
One of the islands in the park, Hansan Island, is very famous for an event of great significance to Korean history: It is the site where General Lee Sun-Shin defeated the Japanese during the Imjinwaeran war in 1592. He led a naval battle to victory with the Geobukseon, a battleship built in the shape of a turtle. His relics are buried in the vicinities of the national park.
Another attraction of the park is Namhaedaegyo, the first suspension bridge in Korea, which was built in 1973 and connects Namhae Island with the mainland. It is 660 m long, 12m wide and 80m high.
An old legend surrounds the mountain Geumsan (Silk Mountain), situated in the national park: In 638, the great Buddhist priest Wonhyo Daesa built the Bogwangsa Temple on the summit, naming the mountain accordingly Bogwangsan. Centuries later, Taejo Lee Seong-gye became king after he had prayed for 100 days on the mountain. He had promised to cover the whole mountain with silk if he becomes king. However, he couldn’t find a silk blanket big enough to cover the mountain, so he named the mountain Geumsan instead.
On some of the islands, fishermen still practice 'Jukbangnim', an ancient fishing method, using a stake shaped like a fan to catch the fish.
One of the main management issues for the park is dealing with the increasing numbers of visitors. In December 2010 a major new bridge, the New Geoga Grand Bridge, created a direct link with Busan, South Korea’s second biggest city. This, together with the elimination of park entrance fees, has led to an estimated increase in visitor numbers of about 47%, and tourism to the region is no longer seasonal.
Hakdo, one of the larger islands in Hallyeohaesang National park, used to be well known for thousands of cranes breeding there. However, due to recent environmental changes, they have almost completely disappeared.
Dealing with the threats
As tourism is based on viewing scenic views, there is considered to be relatively little pressure on the marine environments of the park. Similarly the forested areas are not heavily visited. The most impacted areas are the coastal strips and beaches. Here, active management is taking place to ensure effective waste water treatment, development of campsites away from the beaches, sufficient parking etc.
To improve the availability of information on the conservation status of the park’s marine ecosystems, survey and monitoring has been one of the key conservation activities. KNPS conducts comprehensive park wide surveys covering vegetation, climate, geological and geographical features, mammals, birds, invertebrates and marine fish. The results are used as the basis for developing ecosystem monitoring across the park. These surveys have also lead to the discovery of a previously unknown coral reef community, which was subsequently added to the park.