Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes
The island of Jejudo figures significantly in terms of the preservation of biodiversity. Almost half of all vascular plants found in Korea and about 200 endemic plant species are found on the island, together with half of Korea’s endangered and protected wild species. High on the summit of Mt. Hallasan live polar plant species that advanced southwards during the ice age, while numerous indigenous species and endangered species inhabit the lower altitudes. Without a doubt, Mt. Hallasan is a rich ecological treasure trove, with 1565 species of plants and 1,179 species of animals.
On June 27, 2007, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee listed Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes as a World Natural Heritage in view of the site’s parasitic volcano and lava tubes, as well as for its outstanding geological features and special properties as a habitat for a variety of rare and endangered species. Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes largely comprises of three sites: Mount Hallasan Natural Reserve, Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak, and the Geomunoreum Lava Tube System. The lava tube system includes Geomunoreum, a parasitic cone, and the five lava caves of Bengdwigul, Manjanggul, Gimnyeonggul, Yongcheondonggul, and Dangcheomuldonggul.
Mount Hallasan Natural Reserve
At 1,950 meters, Mt. Hallasan is the tallest mountain in South Korea with gentle slopes formed by eons of volcanic activity. The summit area, however, is steep as it is formed of a steep trachyte edifice. A variety of animals and plants inhabit the natural reserve together with numerous endangered species. Because of the unique and mysterious landscape created by the surrounding 360 cinder cones and its outstanding research value, the Korean government designated the mountain as a national park in 1970, and it has been protected ever since.
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Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak
Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak, one of the 360 parasitic (cinder) cones on Jejudo Island, was uniquely created on the sea floor. Some 5,000 years ago, an underwater eruption on the shallow seabed resulted in a tuff ring. Rising 182 meters above sea level, the tuff ring was originally an island, but the gradual deposit of sand and gravel formed a connection to the land. Also called the ‘Oreum of the Rising Sun’, Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak is one of the treasured landmarks of Jeju Island, which attracts numerous tourists for a view of the sunrise and sunset.
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Geomunoreum Lava Tube System
The Geomunoreum Lava Tube System refers to the series of lava tubes formed some 100,000 to 300,000 years ago by huge amounts of basalt lava that spewed from Geomunoreum Volcano. Lava tubes designated as UNESCO World Natural Heritage are Bengdwigul, Manjanggul, Gimnyeonggul, Yongcheondonggul, and Dangcheomuldonggul.
The largest tube in the Geomunoreum system is Manjanggul. In terms of both length and scale of the entrance, Manjanggul and Gimnyeonggul are among the most internationally recognized formations. Also notable is Bengdwigul, a labyrinth-type cave whose structure is the most complex of any in the world. Other caves that are outstanding in terms of geological value are Yongcheondonggul and Dangcheomuldonggul on the southern coast of Jeju. While Dangcheomuldonggul Cave is quite small, it has a spectacular display of limestone formations. In addition, the limestone structures and geological features found in Yongcheondonggul are unmatched by any in the world.