Protected Area Designation

Regions that are particularly worth protecting due to their outstanding natural ecology and rich biodiversity are designated as protected areas. New construction and expansion of buildings and alteration of land shape are strictly restricted in protected areas, and when necessary, access is prohibited or restricted. Violators of these restrictions are ordered to restore the area and are punishable by penalties. The state may also purchase private land within protected areas via discussion with the land owner. In addition, a conservation master plan is formulated for each of the ecological and scenery conservation areas, the wetland protection areas, and the specified islands to ensure systematic management of protected areas.

There are several areas that have been designated internationally protected areas. Under the Ramsar Convention, 18 areas, including Upo Wetland and Suncheonman Bay, have been designated Wetlands of International Importance, and Seoraksan Mountain, Hallasan Mountain, Sinan Dadohae, Gwangneung Forest, and Gochang Prefecture have been designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserves.

▶ Ecological and Scenery Conservation Areas

Ecological and scenery conservation areas are designated by the Minister of Environment in accordance with the Natural Environment Conservation Act from among: (1) Areas where the state of nature maintains primitiveness, or which greatly merit academic research because of their abundant biodiversity; (2) Areas that need conservation for peculiar topographic or geological features for academic research or maintenance of their natural scenery; (3) Areas that can represent diverse ecosystems or areas that are specimens of an ecosystem; and (4) Areas that need particular conservation because of their beautiful natural scenery. Accordingly, the Ministry of Environment investigates ecologically outstanding regions and coastal dunes throughout the country each year and designates ecological and scenery conservation areas according to the results. Local governments (cities (“si”) and provinces (“do”)) can also designate equivalent areas that are deemed to require conservation as “si/do ecological and scenery conservation areas.” As of the end of 2013, the Ministry of Environment has designated nine ecological and scenery conservation areas (241.615 km2) and there are 23 si/do ecological and scenery conservation areas (42.53 km2).

▶ Wetland Protection Areas

Wetland protection areas are designated by the Minister of Environment, the Minister of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, or a si/do governor in accordance with the Wetlands Conservation Act from among: (1) Areas that have native continuity or rich biodiversity; (2) Areas that are inhabited and visited by rare or endangered wildlife; and (3) Areas which have extraordinary scenic, topographic, or geological value. As of the end of 2013, there are 32 wetland protection areas (336.713 km2) in total.

▶ Specified Islands

Specified islands are defined by the Special Act on the Preservation of the Ecosystem in Island Areas Including Dokdo as islands with no human inhabitants or with human inhabitants only residing in an extremely limited area. They are designated by the Minister of Environment from among: (1) Islands with an outstanding natural landscape, such as volcanoes, valleys, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, shores, and lava tubes; (2) Islands necessary for the preservation of water resources, fossils, rare or endangered fauna and flora, or other Korean endemic species; (3) Islands recognized as worthy of conservation as habitats or migratory stopover sites of wild animals; (4) Ecologically important islands with a natural forest; and (5) Islands with unique geographical or geological features, for which scientific research or conservation is needed. The Ministry of Environment has designated 206 specified islands (11.705 km2) during 12 natural environmental impact studies on uninhabited islands throughout the country from 1998 to 2013.

▶ Nature Parks

Nature parks protect natural ecosystems, beautiful natural landscapes, and cultural heritage sites to ensure sustainable use by the public. There are four types of nature parks: national parks, provincial parks, county parks, and geoparks. As of the end of 2013, Korea has a total of 81 nature parks (total area of 8,144 km2, 8.1% of the national land), including 21 national parks, 30 provincial parks, 27 county parks, and three geoparks.

National geoparks are areas of geoscientific importance that have an outstanding landscape. They are certified by the Minister of Environment for conservation and use in education and tourism projects. Jejudo and Ulleungdo/Dokdo Islands became the first certified national geoparks in December 2012, and as of the end of 2013, three locations (total area of 112 km2) have been certified.

Korea’s national parks are smaller compared to those of other countries, have a high proportion of privately owned land at 33.5%, and mainly consist of mountain type terrain. Trails and surrounding areas are being significantly damaged due to an increased number of visitors since the entry fee to national parks was abolished in 2007. Accordingly, restoration projects are being implemented by investigating the damaged areas, and areas of serious damage have been designated “special protection zones” to facilitate the recovery of nature. Special protection zones aim to encourage the recovery of damaged nature by restricting access and other acts regarding wild animal habitats, wild plant habitats, wetlands, valleys, and other key areas of resources within a national park that are highly worth protecting or that require protection from artificial or natural damage. As of the end of 2013, 139 special protection zones (274 km2) have been designated inside national parks.

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Last modified : 2017-12-12 08:38

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