SEOUL, July 26 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korea’s tidal flats have been officially inscribed as a UNESCO world natural heritage despite receiving a deferral in a preliminary review, cultural heritage authorities said Monday.
Seoul made a push to register “getbol,” or “Korean tidal flats,” on UNESCO’s world heritage list in the 44th session of the World Heritage Committee taking place in Fuzhou, China, online.
The committee reached a unanimous decision to include the tidal flats on the list, praising them as having one of the world’s most important habitats for biodiversity maintenance and “outstanding universal value” for providing a stopover for migratory birds.
The decision came as a surprise, considering that getbol was deferred from the list of potential assets that could be listed as UNESCO world heritage in a preliminary review held in May. The list consists of cultural, natural and mixed sites.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an advisory body for UNESCO, handed down a deferral for getbol in a four-tier system consisting of inscribe, refer, defer and not to inscribe.
While an “inscribe” recommendation raises the possibility of the heritage being listed on the UNESCO list, those that have received a “not to inscribe” recommendation cannot reapply for review.
The IUCN suggested that while there is a possibility that getbol serves as an important habitat for biodiversity, the range of the areas is not large enough to show a large-scale topographic and ecological process, with the exception of the tidal flats in Sinan.
South Korea had applied for a review on four tidal flats across the country’s coastal areas, such as Seocheon in South Chungcheong Province, and Gochang, Sinan, Boseong and Suncheon in South and North Jeolla Provinces.
Tidal flats in Sinan have the largest area of the four, covering 1,100 square kilometers, while the other tidal flats cover 60 square kilometers. Some of them are unique wetlands designated by the Ramsar Convention.
Forty-seven indigenous species, including 22 water birds on the verge of extinction and five invertebrates, are known to reside in the tidal areas.
With the inscription, South Korea has 15 sites listed on the world heritage list. The tidal flats are the country’s second natural site after Jeju volcanic island and the lava tubes on the southern resort island.
Thirteen others are cultural heritages, including Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, Changdeok Palace and Jongmyo shrine for deceased kings and queens of the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910) in Seoul.