Jeju Island is the largest island off the coast of South Korea, it is situated in the Jeju province.
A popular tourist destination, it is also known as the “Island of the Gods” and the “Korean Hawaii”.
In 2007, part of the island was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and in 2011 it was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature.
Jeju Island Facts for Kids
- Jeju is an oval-shaped, volcanic island. It extends over approximately 714 square miles (1,848 square kilometers).
- The island was formed around 2 million years ago by volcanic eruptions.
- Mount Halla is the central volcanic core of the island and the highest mountain in the whole of South Korea at 6,398 feet (1,950 meters) above sea level. It is an extinct volcano with a crater lake.
- In 2014, Jeju Island had a population of 621,500. The island’s main city, Jeju City, housed over two-thirds of the total population (408,364).
- The island has a warm, subtropical climate and temperatures rarely fall below 0 °C (32 °F).
- Its climate, landscape, beaches and protected areas have made the island a popular place to visit, and it attracts large numbers of Japanese and South Korean tourists in particular.
- Seoul (South Korean capital) to Jeju Island is the world’s busiest flight route. In 2017 64,991 flights were made on this route. Jeju was also the most visited Asian port in 2016, with 1.2 million visitors from cruise ships.
- The island is also home to the Jeju Naval Base, officially called the Jeju Civilian-Military Complex Port. The base was finished in 2016 after long delays caused by protesters. It is also designed to allow cruise ships to dock at the port, boosting tourism on the island while helping South Korea to defend its sea routes.
- Jeju Island has the world’s longest lava tube, a natural tunnel formed when lava becomes solid. It is called the Manjanggul Cave and is part of a UNESCO protected area. The lava tube stretches for 5 miles (8 km) and a section is open to the public to walk through.
- In the 1750s islanders carved large rocks of solidified lava into huge human representations, known as the “Grandfather Stones”. They were created to scare away any invaders and around 45 carved stones remain today.
- Many popular South Korean TV dramas are filmed on Jeju and have boosted tourism with huge numbers of fans visiting the island.
- The soil used to plant a symbolic peace tree at a 2017 peace summit between North and South Korea was from Jeju Island.
- The island is also famous for its deep-diving female free divers who dive for oysters. This tradition dates from the 17th century and many of the women in their 60s and 70s still dive without the aid of any specialized equipment.
Question: Why is Jeju Island such a popular tourist destination?
Answer: Jeju Island is such a popular tourist destination for many reasons, including its beautiful coastline, its short distance from the capital (1-hour flight), the many parks and protected areas, its own culture and its mild climate. Other features such as the chance to visit where many popular TV shows were filmed, to visit the longest lava tube in the world and plenty of walking trails and cultural activities add to its attraction.
Question: What is the impact of increased tourism on Jeju Island?
Answer: With a second airport on Jeju Island being planned to help ease congestion on what is the world’s busiest flight route, the South Korean government is looking to triple the number of arrivals to the island to 45 million by 2035.
However, while tourists increase Jeju’s profile and economic status, there are plenty of downsides to the increase in visitors, and in some cases an increase in numbers threatens to jeopardize the original features that draw so many to Jeju.
Jeju Island has a target of becoming carbon-free by 2030, replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources such as solar power, wind or hydroelectric. A large increase in tourist numbers will make this target more difficult to achieve as greater energy resources will be needed for more people.
In 2002 Jeju was named as one of the world networks of biosphere reserves, in 2007 it became listed as a World Heritage site and in 2010 a Global Geopark. There are worries that greater numbers of tourists will damage its ecosystem and cause greater pollution. Greater visitor numbers will also increase crowding and spoil the island as a destination for those looking to get back to nature. Local residents currently bear a lot of the downsides of tourism and fear any increase would only make traffic problems, pollution, litter and strained underground water supplies worse. There are also complaints that only a very small percentage of money spent by tourists actually benefits the local economy, with the vast majority of benefiting companies based elsewhere.