Jirisan National Park, South Korea
Managed by the Korean National Parks Service, Jirisan National Park features a rich diversity of natural, cultural and recreation values and displays a strong connection to Korean legend and mystique. Jirisan is Korea’s first National Park and the largest terrestrial protected area in the country. It is defined by snow capped alpine peaks, forest covered ridges and deep valleys. Jirisan is also home to the endangered Asiatic black bear which was reintroduced as part of a conservation program in the national park.
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Date created: 1967
Location: Jirisan National Park is located on the Southern section of the Korean Peninsula, spanning over three provinces and five cities.
Area: 47,176 hectares
IUCN category: In 2007, Jirisan National Park was classified as IUCN Category II. Protected areas that fall within this category are large natural or near natural areas set aside to protect large-scale ecological processes, along with the complement of species and ecosystems characteristic of the area, which also provides a foundation for environmentally compatible spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational and visitor opportunities.
Flora and fauna Jirisan is considered a treasure chest of natural wonders. Its flagship species are the Korean Winter Hazel flower and the endangered Asiatic black bear. 1,526 different plant species are found in the park including six endangered species and 107 species endemic to Korea. 2,944 animal species have been recorded in Jirisan National Park including 35 mammal; 88 bird; 11 amphibian; 27 reptile; 31 fish; and 2,752 insect species.
The legend of Jirisan National Park Jirisan has since ancient times, been recognized as one of Korea’s legendary mountains and a focal point for the nation’s spiritual beliefs. Jirisan National Park is also famous for the fable of the Imugi of the Baemsagol Valley. The Imugi is a kind of anaconda that was sorry not to have turned into a dragon and legend has it that 1,300 years ago the well hidden secret of the Songnimsa Temple located at the entrance to the Baemsagol Valley was revealed. It is said that each year one monk at the temple was sacrificed to an imugi. Upon revelation of the temple’s secret, the valley became known as ‘Baemsagol’ meaning the valley where an imugi, which failed to become a dragon, died.
Preserving South Korea’s cultural heritage treasures The Park contains 37 cultural heritage sites known as ‘treasures’ that are protected under the Korean Cultural Property Protection Law. Seven sites are listed as national treasures due to their national significance. One such national pressure is Hwaecomsa (temple) situated at the centre of one of the National Parks alpine peaks. The temple was constructed by the Buddhist priest, Yeongidaesa during the reign of King Jinheung of Silla in the year 544 and is today considered one of the South Korea’s most significant templates. The park also protects 34 cultural heritage treasures and 20 tangible cultural assets.
Jirisan and the bigger protected area picture in South Korea Jirisan National Park is one component of a much bigger protected area system in Korea. The park is situated in the southern section of the nationally significant protected area corridor and buffer zone known as the Baekdudaegan Mountain System (BDMS). The BDMS is the backbone of Korean geography and an irreplaceable habitat for the country’s biodiversity. The BDMS covers 260,000 hectares which is approximately 2.6% of South Korea’s total land area and 4% of the country’s total forest area.
Why should we protect this area? The high biodiversity; geological; cultural; and recreational values make Jirisan National Park worthy of ongoing protection. Jirisan National Park displays a rich biodiversity and protects the core habitats of threatened species including the Asiatic black bear. The Park also displays significant geological features such as alpine wetlands.
The National Park is a unique landscape resource as it protects 61 cultural heritage treasures and cultural assets. It is the fusion of natural and cultural values that makes Jirisan National Park a popular recreation destination for tourists and visitors alike. The Park offers a variety of nature based recreation opportunities including the scenically spectacular Cheonwangbong to Nogodan 25km ridge walk.