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Jeju Island Geopark

At 1,950 meters, Mt. Halla is the tallest mountain in South Korea and the most prominent landmark on the island. This area was volcanically active for the last 2 million years, though the final formation of Jeju Island occurred between 400,000 and 700,000 years ago. It is a shield volcano with shallow-sloping sides. Parallel volcanic cones called oreum are also characteristic of the island’s geology. Jeju has 368 oreum — the highest concentration in the world — and they give the island very distinctive looking panoramas. Mt. Halla has a number of uniquely famous formations including Yeongsil Crater, Byeongpungbawi Rock, Samgak Peak and Seonnyeo Falls, among others.
Mt. Halla was designated a national park in 1970 and covers an area of 151.3km2 (8.3 percent of Jeju Island), of which 60 percent or 90.9km2 is a nature protection zone.

Some main features of interest to scientists and tourists

Mt. Halla’s crater lake. It is 110 meters deep and about 18,200 square meters in area, with a circumference of 1.7 kilometers. In the summer typhoon season it has been known to fill up to 66 percent of capacity.
The crater was named after a legend that mountain gods riding white roe deer (baengnok) came down to drank water from it.

Off Yeongsil Trail is a high grassland with Witsae Oreum and Banga Oreum directly opposite the crater wall of Baengnokdam. Well known for its fields, which have azaleas in the springtime and change to swaths of green grasses and colorful mountain flowers, it is considered one of the “10 Scenic Wonders of Yeongju.”

Hiking trails
Now that the 600-meter stretch of Sara Oreum was added last month, Mt. Halla boasts 36.4 kilometers of trails. The longest is Seongpanak (9.6 km), followed by Donnaeko (9.1 km), Gwaneumsa (8.7 km), Eorimok (4.7 km) and Yeongsil (3.7 km).

Education and tourism 
According to Mrs. Yang Chun Suk, a Mt. Halla National Park Office employee, the history of the mountain as an environmental site of interest to scientists and tourists alike is a long one.

Geopark status and scientific research 
Volcanologist Jeon Yong Mun said during the assessment of Mt. Halla as a World Natural Heritage Site in 2007, “It was concluded that Mt. Halla holds great scientific value, there are a wide variety of biota and floristic composition, many rare and endemic biota. And Mt. Halla has many sites such as Baengnokdam, Muljangol, 1100 wetland, which are estimated to be of global scientific value.”

However, Ahn Ung San, a geologist and member of the Jeju Island Geopark Promotion Team, says that recognition stemming from Geopark status has yet to affect research funding.

“Hopefully, the Geopark and World Natural Heritage designation will serve as opportunities for us to realize that it is impossible to transform Jeju’s natural resources into global Jeju brand image with temporary interest and investment,” Dr. Ahn said in an email interview, though he acknowledged that there are no “specific regulations or investment” stemming from GNN membership.

“Having said that, the expansion of public interest following the verification will, in turn, attract the interest and investment of local organizations and local research institutes (i.e. universities).”

As for potential groundbreaking discoveries to be made in the future on Mt. Halla, Dr. Ahn sketched out the history of scientific research on the island.

“The first of the researches regarding the formation of Jeju volcanic island and Mt. Halla was conducted by a Japanese scholar in the 1920s. A series of studies such as the drafting of Jeju’s geological map in 1971, embarkment of homoplastic research in the 1980s and 1990s, and drawing up of a detailed geological map in the 2000s were then conducted. Despite several studies, there are still disagreements between scholars on the formation of this volcanic island, and there aren’t substantial research outcomes regarding the mountainous areas including Mt. Halla.”