Gov’t hopes to designate biosphere reserves

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Gov’t hopes to designate biosphere reserves

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Top: Hundreds of cranes spend the winter at the Imjin River in Yeoncheon County, Gyeonggi, in February. Above: The Hantan River flows through the demilitarized zone in Cheorwon County, Gangwon, in August. [JOONGANG ILBO]

Korea is pushing the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) to designate regions bordering the demilitarized zone (DMZ) and the whole of Jeju Island as biosphere reserves.

On Monday, the Ministry of Environment and the Korea National Park Service’s Unesco Man and the Biosphere Programme National Committee announced that it had nominated three sites to Unesco for designation as biosphere reserves last Friday.

A site designated as a biosphere reserve is expected to support development and logistics for conservation. Regional officials are encouraged to promote the conservation of species and ecosystems and foster sustainable economic development, while scientists are encouraged to conduct projects and educational training to further research.

The ministry and committee are pushing for the northern regions of five counties in Gangwon - Cheorwon, Hwacheon, Yanggu, Inje and Goseong - to be designated as one biosphere reserve.

These five counties, along with Yeoncheon County in Gyeonggi, another nominated site, all border the DMZ, which is famous for its flourishing wildlife due to decades-long isolation from humans.

Additionally, the government is pushing for all of Jeju Island to be recognized as a biosphere reserve. Currently, only the area immediately surrounding Mount Halla is designated as a Unesco biosphere reserve.

Sites must meet requirements regarding size and biological diversity before being admitted into the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, as outlined by the Statutory Framework of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. In 2012, Korea’s nomination of the five Gangwon counties for designation as a biosphere reserve was rejected due to failure to meet the criteria.

Unesco will make a decision on the three sites’ nominations next June.

“By nominating sites that border the DMZ as biosphere reserves, I hope we will have more opportunities for North-South environmental cooperation to preserve and manage the areas together,” said Yoo Seung-gwang, head of the ministry’s nature and ecology policy division.

Currently, there are 686 biosphere reserves in 122 countries. As of 2018, six sites have been designated as biosphere reserves in South Korea - Mount Seorak, Jeju Island, Shinan Dadohae, Gwangneung Forest, Gochang County and Suncheon. North Korea has five mountains that are designated as biosphere reserves - Mount Paektu, Mount Kuwol, Mount Myohyang, Mount Chilbo and Mount Kumgang.


BY KIM EUN-JIN [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]

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