Jeju-do, Korea's largest island, is competing to be listed in the New Seven Wonders of the Nature, an initiative led by the Swiss-based non-profit New7wonders Foundation.
The island is the only candidate in the Northeast Asian region; neither Japan's Mount Fuji nor the Yangtze River in China was selected for the 28 final candidates.
Other potential candidates include the Grand Canyon of the United States, the Amazon rainforest, Iguazu Falls in Brazil, Mount Kilimanjaro of Tanzania, Uluru (Ayres Rock) in Australia and Ha Long Bay in Vietnam.
The final winners will be announced after telephone and online voting is complete on November 10 this year.
|Left: Seongsan Ilchulbong // Right: Grass waves in the winds on Jeju island (courtesy of The National Committee for Jeju New7Wonders of Nature)|
Jeju Island has a lot to offer, and has both a unique ecology and well-designed tourist infrastructure. The island became the first area in the world to receive three different kinds of recognition from UNESCO's natural science sector. In 2002, the island became a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. In 2007, UNESCO registered Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes as U.N.-protected heritage sites. Last year, UNESCO's Global Geopark Network designated a total of nine scenic sites on Jeju Island as global geoparks.
Another recommending factor lies in the close ties between human, culture, history and nature on the island. Few of the other sites display the close integration and connection between humans and the natural world as well as Jeju. Chung Un-chan, former Prime Minister and current chair of the National Committee for Jeju New7Wonders of Nature, said, “Jeju is the only candidate site where people, nature, culture and prehistoric heritage harmoniously coexist in a single location,” at a ceremony to launch a voting campaign last month.
|Left: Mount Halla // Right: Inside Manjang Cave (courtesy of The National Committee for Jeju New7Wonders of Nature)|
Some of most important sites on Jeju Island include Halla Mountain, Seongsan Ilchulbong (Sunrise Peak) and Manjang Cave. Other famous tourist attractions include prehistoric sites on the northeastern coast and Yongcheon Cave, a well-preserved lava and limestone cave. Traditional architectural details like shallow stone walls and thatched houses are a charming backdrop as people hike along the Olle trekking paths.
Jeju Island has long been a popular tourist attraction for overseas visitors. In late December last year, Chinese tourists picked Korea’s Jeju Island as one of their favorites in a poll conducted by China’s Global Times. The island was selected as the top island destination, along with Hawaii and the Maldives.
|Left: Mount Sanbang on Jeju Island (courtesy of The National Committee for Jeju New7Wonders of Nature) // Right: Rape flowers blanket Jeju island (Yonhap News))|
The campaign has significantly boosted public interest in the vote. Celebrities, including internationally-famed soccer player Park Ji-sung and Super Bowl MVP Hines E. Ward, have stepped up as goodwill ambassadors for the campaign to help draw more attention to the vote.
|Chung Un-chan, former Prime Minister and chairman of the National Committee for Jeju New7Wonders of Nature, (center) poses with seven Miss Korea beauty pageant winners serving as PR ambassadors for the voting campaign to support Jeju. (Yonhap News))|
The seven winners of the previous vote in 2007 include Machu Picchu of Peru and Petra of Jordan. Both sites recorded more than a 60-percent increase in the number of tourists after the vote.
* How to participate in the voting
There are two ways to vote, by internet or telephone. To vote by phone, call 001-1588-7715 and after the short greeting, press 7715, the code for Jeju Island. It costs around 144 won if calling from Korea.
To vote online, visit the homepage of the New7Wonders (www.new7wonders.com) and click on “vote now for NEW 7 WONDERS OF NATURE.” Choose “Jeju Island” and six other favorites among the candidate sites and click “continue” to provide your information and register your vote. Voting will end on November 10.
By Yoon Sojung
Korea.net Staff Writer