National Geoparks have a great effect in boosting tourism, but they are not subject to regulations unlike other national or provincial natural parks. Thus, local governments wishing to identify potential tourism resources are paying a keen interest on Geoparks.
The Ministry of Environment (Minister Yoon Seongkyu) announced to hold a ceremony to grant the certificate to Hantan∙Imjingang River National Geopark, of which certification was notified on December 31, 2015, at Pocheon Sports Tourism Support Center on February 26.
National Geopark is a type of natural parks and the certification is intended to encourage conservation of geological resources and utilize them for educational and tourism purposes. Since the introduction of Geopark in 2012, the Ministry of Environment has certified seven National Geoparks over the past three years.
Suwolbong Peak in Jeju Island has emerged as one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country, after it was recognized as National Geopark. Indeed, the number of visitors to the peak has quadrupled from 77,000 in 2012 to 310,000 in 2015. Since then, National Geopark has been promoted as a sustainable development model, as geological heritages that were traditionally unpopular among tourists – compared to other tourist attractions, such as ecological, historical and cultural resources - finally came to be in the limelight as tourism resources.
Accordingly, in addition to already-designated National Geoparks including Jeju Island and Hantan∙Imjingang River National Geoparks*, Ongjin in Incheon, Yeosu in Jeonnam Province, Taebaek, Joengseon, Pyongchang, and Yeongwol in Gangwon Province, Gyeongju, Pohang, Yeongdeok, and Uljin in Gyeongbuk Province and Muju, Jinan, Gochang, and Buan in Jeonbuk Province are gearing up for receiving the certification of Geopark.
* Seven National Geoparks: Jeju Island Geopark, Ulleungdo〮Dokdo Geopark, Busan Geopark, Cheongsong Geopark, Gangwon Peace Area Geopark, Mudeungsan Area Geopark, Hantan〮Imjingang River Geopark
The Ministry will select well-managed candidate National Geoparks and submit the application dossier to UNESCO to include the selected sites in the UNESCO Global Geoparks Network.
UNESCO certifies Global Geoparks to conserve geological heritage of international significance and to utilize them for educational and tourism purposes. 120 Global Geoparks are certified over 33 countries so far.
In 2010, Jeju Island Geopark was recognized as a Global Geopark and Cheongsong National Geopark submitted the application dossier to the UNESCO in last November, on which the evaluation in now underway.
Hantan∙Imjingang River National Geopark that will receive the certificate as the National Geopark on 26th is the nation’s first Geopark themed with ‘river.’ The Ministry certified part of Pocheon-si and Yeoncheon-gun spanning 493.31km2 as the seventh National Geopark at the end of last year.
Formed from the eruptions of the volcano of Ori Mountain in North Korea 270,000-100,000 years ago that stretched to 100km along Hantangang and Imjingang River, the region presents world-class landscape with various volcanic landforms such as basalt ravine and lava plateau.
Hantan∙Imjingang River National Geopark has about 20 geological sites including columnar joints in Namgye-li, ravine in Meongwu-li and pillow lava in Auraji. In particular, Auraji pillow lava is shaped after a round pillow formed in a place where lava was rapidly cooled when it was met with river. It is the only pillow lava that can be found inland in Korea and also a rare inland structure around the world.
Pocheon-si and Yeoncheon-gun will develop and offer a variety of tourism resources such as geological trails by linking geological sites with surrounding tourism resources.
The Ministry of Environment plans to find and certify Geoparks with an aim to designate 17 National Geoparks and list 8 parks as the UNSECO Global Geoparks by 2022.
“Korea boasts world-class geological heritage with a vast geological variety,” said Yu Taecheol, chief of Park Ecology Division of the Ministry. He added “the Ministry will find out regions with a will to manage precious geological heritage and run Geoparks and develop them as National Geoparks.”