Korean Knowledge Exchange with UK UNESCO Geopark

Geography students from Sungshin Women’s University, Korea, accompanied by their professor, Professor Kyeong Park, visited the English Riviera UNESCO Global Geopark in July 2018 to investigate how the area uses Geotourism to create economic and social regeneration and to apply their knowledge to aspiring and existing UNESCO Global Geoparks in Korea: Mudeungsan UNESCO Global Geopark, Cheongsong UNESCO Global Geopark and Jeju Island UNESCO Global Geopark.

The students from Sungshin Women’s University, Korea won the prestigious ‘Global Frontier’ prize for their research into Geomarketing and Geotourism at UNESCO Global Geoparks in the UK. They used their bursary to fund a visit one of their case studies – UNESCO Global Geopark English Riviera in the UK. This visit was co-ordinated by the UK National Commission for UNESCO in partnership with the Korean National Commission for UNESCO resulting in a knowledge exchange between the UK and Korea.

In addition to their research, their application set out their objectives and outcomes. This included gathering feedback from experts in the UK and the preparation of a Geotourism Guide that proposes ways in which Korean Geoparks can promote and engage with the travel sector to encourage a greater number of foreign visits to Korean Geoparks.

Professor Kyeong Park from Sungshin University said:

“The students have learnt a lot from this experience. They are able to compare what they see here to the UNESCO Geoparks in Korea at Jeju Island, Cheongsong and Mudeungsan. Understanding more about the geomorphology and the geotourism experiences in the UK is of great interest to their studies.”

During their visit, knowledge was exchanged on the management, marketing and activities of English Riviera Geopark as well as on Biodiversity and Geological Influences on Flora and Fauna.

Nick Powe, chair of English Riviera UNESCO Global Geopark said:

“We were delighted to welcome these enthusiastic and engaging Korean students and their professor to the Geopark. The trip I led from Kents Cavern to Berry Head and back, along the South West Coast Path, using the ferry service and the buses, was an itinerary we recommend to many of our visitors looking for a Geotourism experience. It takes in geology, archaeology, social history, food and the cultural heritage of the area.  All of which are embodied in what makes a UNESCO Global Geopark.”

Anna Duenbier from the UK National Commission for UNESCO (UKNC) said:

“It was wonderful to meet the Korean students and Professor Kyeong Park in London at the UNESCO World Heritage Site Maritime Greenwich. We spoke about UNESCO in the UK and I informed them of the different UNESCO designations and programmes in the UK: World Heritage Sites, Global Geoparks, Biosphere Reserves, Creative Cities, Memory of the World, UNESCO Chairs and the L’Oréal – UNESCO For Women in Science Initiative. It is inspiring that these young women from Sungshin Women’s University, Korea are enthusiastic about Geography and Science in the UK. It is a great honour that these Korean students have chosen to undertake a knowledge exchange in this field with the UK.”

UNESCO Global Geoparks are single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development. Their bottom-up approach of combining conservation with sustainable development while involving local communities is becoming increasingly popular. International Engagement is strongly encouraged within this network in line with global contributions to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

English Riviera UNESCO Global Geopark has strong links with many international members of the UNESCO Global Geopark Network and has hosted high level visits from many countries.The Geopark itself comprises numerous sites in Devon including Kent’s Cavern, Berry Head and Paignton Geopark Play, a unique geologically themed children’s play area, that presents the geological story of the Geopark, from the Devonian, through the Carboniforous to the Permian and ending up with the Quaternary. This completely free and hugely popular facility was designed and is maintained by the local community in Paignton and encapsulates both the community involvement and educational aspect at the core of Global Geopark values.

The UK is home to seven UNESCO Global Geoparks, stretching from the English Riviera in the South to Geopark Shetland in the North, including two in Wales and a cross-border UNESCO Global Geopark shared by Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.  The UK sites are part of a growing international network of Global Geoparks – areas of outstanding geological interest which use their unique geology to drive community development. Across the UK 357,000 people live in a Geopark and the Geoparks receive over 17.5 million visitors each year.