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About Jeju Island :: Mount Hallasan

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Baengnokdam, the crater lake atop Hallasan.

Summary

Site name : Hallasan Natural Reserve
Site area : 164.401㎢ (core zone=90.931㎢, buffer zone=73.474㎢)
Inscription date : 6. 27, 2007
Designated as Natural Monument No. 182 in 1966

Introduction
Mt. Hallasan is the central peak of Jeju Island, a shelfal shield volcano constructed on the continental shelf of the Yellow Sea. Rising 1950 m above sea level, Mt. Hallasan is the highest peak in South Korea and is the symbol of Jeju Island. Mt. Hallasan boasts peculiar volcanic landscape, produced by the crater lake Baeknokdam at the summit, the precipitous rocky cliffs of the Yeongsilgiam, and about forty volcanic cones. Mt. Hallasan was designated as a natural monument and a national park in 1966 and in 1970, respectively. It was also designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2002 and is carefully protected from human activity.

Geological Characteristics
Mt. Hallasan is the central peak of the gently sloping shield volcano of Jeju Island. The mountain is composed of numerous basaltic to trachytic lavas and a variety of volcaniclastic deposits. It has a small (108 m deep and 550 m wide) crater at its center instead of a caldera. It is curious that the mountain doesn’t have a caldera in spite of its fairly big size.
Mt. Hallasan is interpreted to have formed since the Middle Pleistocene, after about 780,000 years ago, when the dominantly hydrovolcanic eruption in the early stage of Jeju volcanism was replaced by mainly lava effusion. The volcanic rocks near the Baeknokdam crater at the summit were erupted only a few thousand to tens of thousand years ago, suggesting that the eruptive activity of Mt. Hallasan continued until prehistoric time. Because of its young age, the summit area of Mt. Hallasan preserves fresh volcanic landforms and rock formations.

The summit of Mt. Hallasan provides different scenery when viewed from different directions because the summit area was made from two different lavas that have contrastingly different properties. That is, the western half of that area was made from highly viscous trachyte lava, forming a dome-like topography, whereas the eastern half was made from highly fluid trachybasalt lava, resulting in a gently sloping topography. The southern part of the summit is bounded by a precipitous rock cliff because of the collapse of the trachytic lava dome. In contrast to the summit area, unaffected by significant weathering or erosion, the flanks of Mt. Hallasan were carved into several deep valleys and gorges. The topographic features formed by the erosion and collapse of the volcano are especially well developed in the Yeongsilgiam.

Landscape
Midway up the southwestern side of Mt. Hallasan is a magnificent display of a cluster of steep trachyte edifices. It was named Yeongsil (sil meaning temple) owing to its resemblance to Yeongsan (Yeong Mountain), where Sakyamuni Buddha is said to have preached. The cluster of rocky cliffs is especially prominent given their mutually contrastive surroundings. Jutted against a trachyte structure called the Mireukjonburam (Stone Sculpture of Buddha), on its left is the trachyte Byeongpungbawi (Folding Screen Rocks) that present large columnar joints. To its right hovers the black trachytic basalt feature called the Obaeknahansang (The Five-Hundred Disciples of Buddha). At the top of Mt. Hallasan is the crater lake called Baeknokdam, where the Sinseon (Taoist hermits with supernatural powers) are said to have waded in the waters riding on ‘Baeknok’ (white deer). Many believe this represents the very essence of the beauty that is the Hallasan Natural Reserve. The grace of the Reserve is reinforced by the diverse alpine flora, the large area of Korean fir dwarf forest, as well as the distinct vertical distribution of flora along the slopes of Mt. Hallasan. As a result, each of the four distinct seasons creates its own array of shapes and colors to add to the mystique and grandeur of the Hallasan Natural Reserve.

Natural Ecosystem
Mt. Hallasan Natural Reserve not only has a magnificent landscape but also is covered with diverse plant communities of deciduous hardwood forests, coniferous forests of Korean fir, and shrub communities of alpine and arctic plants. Mt. Hallasan shows clear vegetation distribution along altitudinal gradient. From the top of Mt. Hallasan to the Hallasan National Park boundary at about 600 m to 1,000 m in elevation, the vegetation changes from subalpine evergreen coniferous forest to warm temperate deciduous hardwood forest. The evergreen forest of Abies koreana, a Korean endemic fir species is distributed on flat areas or slopes between 1,400 m and 1,950 m on Mt. Hallasan, and this forest corresponds with the northern part of the cool-temperate forest of the Korean Peninsula. Jeju Island has 59 taxa of plant species endemic to Jeju, but most of them are alpine or arctic plants occurring near the summit of Mt. Hallasan above 1,700 m above sea level. These arctic or alpine species at the higher elevations of Mt. Hallasan migrated from north during the Quaternary Period when Jeju Island was connected to the mainland Korea, and moved upward on Mt. Hallasan as the climate became warmer during the Holocene Epoch. The fauna of Jeju Island show that continental, Japanese, and southern characteristics coexist in a single place. Among the 1601 species of insects of Jeju, 24 are endemic to Jeju and 204 are arctic species.

The animals of vertebrates inhabiting the Mt. Hallasan Natural Reserve include roe deer and 21 other species of mammals, 328 species of birds, 8 species of amphibians, and 9 species of reptiles. The mammals including roe deers in Jeju Island, of which four are endemic to Jeju (Jeju weasel, Jeju salamander, and Jeju striped field mouse). As with the flora, most animal species endemic to Jeju inhabit the higher elevational areas of Mt. Hallasan.

Value of Mt. Hallasan
The Hallasan Natural Reserve comprises a substantial part of the summit area of the volcanic terrain of Jeju Island. Baeknokdam is a crater lake of which size is 1.6 ha, its diameter 550 m and depths 108 m. The diverse Hallasan landscape includes a younger (circa 25,000 years in age) intruded trachyte dome, and a series of columnar jointed basalts forming prominent cliffs. The vegetation cover ranges from sub-alpine evergreen coniferous forest dominated by the endemic Korean fir to temperate deciduous hardwood forest in which Mongolian oak predominates. The flora includes some species endemic to Jeju Island and Korea, and species at their northern and southern distributional limits. Most of the island’s 20 mammal species (four endemics) inhabit in the reserve.Hallasan is the heritage which shows Jeju’s volcanic geological characteristics clearly, and has a distinctive value as one of the few large shield volcanoes in the world built on a stationary continental crust plate , and can be distinguished as unusual in its formation over a mantle plume (hot spot) in a marine environment on a stable continental plate margin. In addition, Mount Hallasan, with its array of textures and colors through the changing seasons, waterfalls, display of multi-shaped rock formations and columnar-jointed cliffs, and the towering summit with its lake-filled crater, further adds to the scenic and aesthetic appeal.

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Category: Jeju Island