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Committee to discuss Korea’s bid for tidal flats as Natural World Heritage

Tidal flat in Sinan in South Jeolla Province (Sinan-gun)
Tidal flat in Sinan in South Jeolla Province (Sinan-gun)

Whether Korea’s tidal flats, or “gaetbeol,” make it onto UNESCO’s list of Natural World Heritage sites will be decided soon as the World Heritage Committee meeting kicks off on Friday.

The committee’s 44th annual session is slated to run virtually in cooperation with UNESCO and the host country China.

Separated into two groups, Cultural World Heritage and Natural World Heritage, the committee will assess the nominations and decide which sites to include on the World Heritage list.

Officials hope five tidal flats -- Seocheon in South Chungcheong Province, Gochang in North Jeolla Province, Sinan, Boseong and Suncheon in South Jeolla Province -- will be listed as South Korea’s 15th UNESCO World Heritage.

In a preliminary review, the International Union for Conservation of Nature decided earlier to defer the tidal flats’ nomination. A deferral, in a four-tier scale of recommendations to inscribe, refer, defer and not to inscribe, means it is still in the running.

“This is our very first time to inscribe the deferred natural nomination to be World Heritage. We are uncertain if tidal flats can be included in the World Heritage list,” an official from Korea’s Cultural Heritage Administration told The Korea Herald Thursday. “With our experts and representatives, we are conducting many online meetings to present the value of tidal flats to the delegates of the committee with our best efforts.”

Korea’s tidal flats are home to migratory birds and other endangered species, harboring a rich diversity of marine life. Highlighting such aspects can be the key to its inclusion among Natural World Heritage sites, the official said.

The committee will examine all submitted nominees from 2020-21.

The meeting runs through July 31 and the decision on tidal flats is scheduled to be made July 26.

By Lee Si-jin (