Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jeju Island full of wonders

If Jeju Island, Korea’s southern most resort island, is picked as one of the world’s seven wonders of nature in November, it is widely expected to bolster the country’s image as a major tourist destination and help attract foreign visitors.

Korea has so far been working behind the scenes in promoting the island for a global contest, which began in 2007. But with only 300 days to go before the race comes to a close on Nov. 10, the National Committee for Jeju New7Wonders of Nature here will officially launch a worldwide media campaign today to rally support from not only from Koreans, but also foreign nationals who have experienced the natural wonders of the island.

Mt. Sanbang stands behind Jeju-style thatched cottages. Jeju has the unique distinction of being a location where human life and nature coexist without environmental degradation.
/ Courtesy of National Committee for Jeju New7Wonders of Nature

Jeju is vying for one of seven spots, which will be chosen as the world’s new natural wonders. The contest has been organized by a Switzerland-based nonprofit organization, the New7Wonders Foundation, since 2007 in an attempt to raise the awareness of environmental preservation. The voting is now underway and those seeking to cast a vote can do so either online at its web site ( or via a telephone by calling at 1588-7715.

Jeju is the only East Asian location that made it to the final 28. Mt. Seorak in South Korea; seven sites in China, including the Yangtze River and Zhangjiajie; two sites in Japan, Mt. Fuji and Yakushima; North Korea’s Mt. Baekdu and Mt. Geumgang were eliminated in two previous preliminary rounds.

The final 28 candidate sites include the Amazon, the Grand Canyon, Kilimanjaro, the Maldives, the Galapagos and Butinah Island in the United Arab Emirates, among others.

On Thursday, the committee will hold a ceremony at the Haevich Hotel in Seogwipo, Jeju, to officially launch its global campaign for the promotion of the island as the world’s natural wonder, attracting over 100 local and foreign journalists.

The committee chairman Chung Un-chan, who is also a former prime minister, said it is a God-given duty for both Koreans and non-Koreans to preserve the natural environment of Earth. “In this regard, I strongly encourage all people around the world to join in the voting for the New7Wonders of Nature. This campaign should be a global festival for preserving the natural environment.”

Humans, nature strike balance

Chung also said Jeju Island has been a place where people have been living for several thousand years, adding most of the other 28 finalists are places, which feature either civilization or nature. But Jeju has the unique distinction of being a location where human life and nature coexist without environmental degradation.

“Despite human habitation, the nature of the island has been kept intact since its inception. The time has come for us to let the world know Jeju Island is the only candidate out of the 28 finalists where people, nature, culture, and prehistoric heritage harmoniously coexist at a single location,” he said, urging world citizens to vote for the island.

Governor of Jeju Special Self-Governing Province Woo Keun-min said the island will play a leading role as an environmental capital of the world if it is crowned as one of the New7Wonders of Nature. “It is the world’s first and only place to be awarded a triple crown in the natural science field by UNESCO, with designations as a Biosphere Reserve in 2002, a World Natural Heritage in 2007 and a Global Geopark in 2010.”

Woo said the provincial government will make an all-out effort to preserve the natural environment, as well as promote human welfare and sustainable development on the occasion of the two international events — the launching of a national and global campaign to vote for the New7Wonders of Nature and Jeju’s planned hosting of the World Conservation Congress, dubbed the environment “Olympics,” in September 2012.

All these prove that the island has already been certified by the United Nations as a blessed place with natural and environmental resources. Additionally, an executive of the New7Wonders Foundation, Jean-Paul De La Fuente, said he was impressed by the fantastic and mystic grandeur of Jeju in March last year when he visited the island. He expressed marvel at the natural beauty of Seongsan Ilchulbong, or the Sunrise Peak, in eastern Jeju Island, and Manjang Cave, among others.

Selection to boost brand image

If Jeju is named as one of the world’s seven wonders, the designation will likely not only bring more foreign tourists to the island, but also significantly improve the nation’s global brand image as a whole.

Committee Secretary General Yang Won-chan said Korea’s campaign for Jeju will be focused on both domestic and overseas publicity in parallel because the winner is decided in accordance with popular vote from the world’s citizens. “The key success factor is to attract as many votes as possible from overseas because polls cast by foreigners carry greater weights in the selection process. Particularly, we should work harder to garner support from Chinese, Japanese and other Asians because the island is the only remaining contender in Northeast Asia.”

The secretary general then stressed that making Jeju as one of the winners is much more than just extolling the glories of Jeju.

“It is the way to promote the status of Korea and strengthen the nation’s brand power. It is not like winning and hosting a one-time sport event. Winning the selection will be a crown jewel for the national glory of Korea and an asset, which will be handed down from generation to generation,” he said.

However, Jeju is facing several obstacles in its quest to be picked as one of the world’s seven natural wonders. For instance, the website of the New7Wonders Foundation offers services only in five languages — English, Chinese, Spanish, German and Arabic. With no Korean language services available at the web site, it is more difficult for Koreans to follow instructions and cast a vote online.


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