Location and Values: The Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes world heritage site is located in the Yellow Sea, about 100km south of the Korean mainland. Ten percent of Jeju Island is designated as world heritage, in three separate components. These encompass the island’s volcanic summit and crater lake; a system of lava tubes running down the flanks of the island, and a dramatic fortress-like tuff cone standing in the ocean a short distance offshore. Jeju Island is a rare type of shield volcano formed over a hot-spot in a marine environment at the edge of a stable continental plate. The volcano’s forested upper slopes, summit and crater lake are protected within the Hallasan Natural Reserve, which is the largest component of the site. Five lava tubes, with passages up to 30m high and 23m wide, are included in the second component and regarded as the finest such cave system in the world. They are decorated with stalactites and other ‘secondary’ carbonate formations, creating an unusual underground spectacle of light-coloured cave formations set against the black lava walls and ceilings of the caves themselves. The third component is the Seongsan Ilchulbong Tuff Cone, an austere black edifice standing like an ancient fortress at the ocean’s edge.
Conservation Status and Prospects. According to IUCN’s Conservation Outlook Assessment (2017) the conservation status of the Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes is ‘good’. The IUCN report notes that inscription on the world heritage list has had a very positive outcome in raising awareness of conservation and has brought considerable benefits to the local community through tourism-related employment. The main potential threats are related to management of the growing number of visitors and changes in groundwater levels. The IUCN report notes that there is scope for extending the property to include more volcanic features (through purchase of private land holdings) and improving biodiversity protection measures.
UNESCO Official Website
IUCN Conservation Outlook
UNEP-WCMC Site Description