Keeping an eye trained on the sky

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Keeping an eye trained on the sky

Is the truth really out there? Seo Jong-han thinks so. His operation may not be as high-tech as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or as well financed, but Mr. Seo is determined to find out as much as he can about unidentified flying objects, or UFOs.
During working hours, Mr. Seo is a planning director for Digital Silkroad, a company in the Siheung industrial zone in Gyeonggi province that makes arcade video games.
But his real passion is studying UFO sightings in his work as head of the Korea UFO Investigating and Analyzing Center.
Currently, the center has no office, and no staff, apart from Mr. Seo himself. He does the work at home and at his employer’s office. The center used to have an office in Jongno, in central Seoul, but it closed.
“Since we are a nonprofit organization, the budget for running the center came from our own pockets,” Mr. Seo says. “There was a limit to how much we could spend, so we finally reached a point where we no longer could actually run the office.”
The center may not have an office, but it does have a reputation. Mr. Seo, 44, is the man Korean media turn to for UFO information.
For instance, the Moonwha Ilbo newspaper consulted Mr. Seo in 1998 after one of its photographers, taking a picture in North Korea, inadvertently captured an image of what appeared to be a UFO in flight.
Mr. Seo’s verdict: It was a spaceship.

“The first time I ever saw a UFO,” Mr. Seo says, “was in a children’s magazine, where they published articles on UFO sightings and aliens every month.”
Mr. Seo began his career as a UFO researcher fresh out of high school, in 1979. That was when he joined the UFO center, which at the time was a research club. It had been founded two years earlier by Park Jae-man, an administrative employee at Seoul National University. The club changed its name to the UFO Research Association in 1991; its current name was adopted later.
When he first joined the club, Mr. Seo says, he was so enthusiastic that he asked Mr. Park if he could have the title of head of research. Mr. Park agreed.
From that point, Mr. Seo began reading up on UFOs day and night ― studying mostly the work of foreign researchers, because at the time no Koreans were doing UFO research.
The Korean UFO Investigating and Analyzing Center, which maintains a Web site at, has attracted relatively little interest from the Korean public. At one point it had about 500 members; today, paying members amount to about 200.
Mr. Seo thinks public support is limited because there’s never been anything in Korea like the legendary “Roswell incident” in the United States in 1947, when UFO researchers claim an alien spacecraft crashed in New Mexico and was recovered by the U.S. government.
“People have momentary interest when the news covers a possible UFO sighting, but then it wears off,” Mr. Seo says.

Last year, 57 possible UFO sightings were reported to Mr. Seo. Of those, Mr. Seo determined that 55 were false sightings or pranks. The other two, he believes, were actual sightings of alien spacecraft.
In most cases, Mr. Seo says, false UFO pictures are due to an error in developing the photo or a problem with the film itself. Additionally, reflected light and other natural phenomena can be mistaken for a UFO.
There are five factors involved in verifying a UFO sighting, according to Mr. Seo. One is whether the object is surrounded by light.
“Every UFO has this aura coming out from all parts of the object,” he says with confidence. “It’s very different from the light coming from a light bulb.”
He says this light is a silvery white, and therefore hard to see during the day, but it’s distinctive at night. “I think the light has to do with the UFO’s flight engine,” says Mr. Seo.
The second factor in verifying a sighting is whether the object moves silently. “There’s really no sound coming out of those crafts,” Mr. Seo says.
The third factor is the flying pattern. “If you look at the footage of UFO flights, they totally ignore the law of gravity,” notes Mr. Seo.
“The UFO flies in a pattern that no other aircraft on Earth could follow,” he says.
The two other distinctive features of a UFO, he says, are that it has no wings and that it emits various colors as it flies.
“Depending on what speed the craft is moving, it has a tail of colors from orange to green,” Mr. Seo says.

Some of the photos Mr. Seo has debunked have been digitally manipulated images. “Most of these have been teenagers just trying to pull a prank,” Mr. Seo says.
Once, he received a picture in which the UFO was partly outside the frame, but the photographer’s finger, pointing at the UFO, was in the center.
“Now, a normal reaction when a person spots an UFO is that they would photograph it with the UFO in the center,” Mr. Seo says. “This showed it was all made up.”
Mr. Seo once spoke with a person who insisted that he communicated with aliens. The man said there were people trapped in the fourth dimension who’d been abducted by aliens and never returned.
At first Mr. Seo found the story convincing, but the man later admitted that he had mental problems.
“There are a lot of bizarre people coming up with ridiculous stories, but I think that no Korean has been abducted by aliens, or encountered one, as of today,” Mr. Seo says.
Mr. Seo is currently studying a particular form of UFOs known as “rods.” “It looks like a long, cigar-shaped flying object, which I believe is more of an organic object rather than a metal ship,” he says.

Though he’s essentially on a lone quest, Mr. Seo takes it very seriously. “I hope people would not take us, or the studies on UFOs, as entertainment,” he says.
Mr. Seo would like to see university classes dedicated to the subject of UFOs. This, he believes, would help clarify some of the public’s misunderstandings about the field.
“Recently, universities have had classes in subjects like animation and billiards,” he says. “Why isn’t there any department of UFO studies?”
Another of his ambitions is to build a UFO museum.
“It’s currently a working process, but what we need is a sponsor to help us build this museum,” he says.
The question arises: If aliens have made so many trips to Earth, why are they being so secretive about it?
Mr. Seo believes it’s because they don’t want to cause a panic, as happened in the United States in the 1930s, when a radio drama based on H.G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds” was broadcast.
“People took it seriously,” Mr. Seo says. “The same may happen if a UFO lands in the middle of the day in the middle of a city. People will panic.”

by Lee Ho-jeong
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