By Kim Tae-jong
Extraterrestrial life, alien attacks and space travel. All of these sound more than surreal for most people. But not for unidentified flying objects (UFO) investigators who think these are alien spacecraft — they argue that believing in the object is one of many ways to better understand the universe.
“People are too skeptical to believe in something beyond their senses or understanding,” UFO investigator Seo Jong-han said. “You can see and understand a lot of new things only when you’re open to various possibilities.”
Seo has devoted his life to researching UFOs for the past 30 years. He thinks the efforts to investigate this phenomenon are meaningful as they can help people prepare for possible contact with extraterrestrial life of higher intelligence in the future.
“For the past 50 years, there have been a lot of reports about UFO sightings by a lot of people from many different parts of the world. It’s not right to simply ignore them, and it’s worth examining and investigating such claims through objective and scientific methods by which we can learn something,” Seo said.
He first got into UFO research when he was 12 years old when he started to read a monthly magazine for children. He was literally shocked by stories about aliens and UFOs and the curiosity started getting bigger and finally led him to become one of the most famous experts on the subject in Korea.
He believes that his mission is to promote scientific inquiry, critical investigation, and the use of reason and objective evidence in examining controversial and extraordinary claims about UFOs.
“Isn’t it amazing when you see something in the sky, which cannot be explained easily through our science? My curiosity began to arise deep inside me and I really want to answer what they are and why they are there,” Seo said.
Currently, his job is to analyze photos of UFO sightings as a researcher at the Korea UFO Research Association and director of the Korea UFO Analysis Center.
He receives about 1,000 pictures a year from people who have taken pictures of suspected UFO sightings and analyzes them to classify them into pictures of possible observations, misidentified objects or simply hoaxes. He says only eight to 10 pictures of them are classified into possible UFOs.
“People can misinterpret various objects as UFO sightings such as bright stars, man-made aircrafts, balloons, satellites and so on. Some people create fake pictures of UFO sightings using various graphic programs. But even if excluding these incorrect reports, many remain unexplained, and so can be classified as unidentified in the strictest sense and seen as some kind of alien-related phenomena,” Seo said.
But he also emphasized the importance of the skeptical approach to investigate theories about various unexplainable phenomena as there are claims to link the observation of UFOs and other “unscientific” phenomena such as an “apocalypse.”
“You shouldn’t believe everything told and reported. You need to balance your openness and skepticism. You need to maintain your scientific and objective stance as things can be easily exaggerated and fantasized,” Seo said.
Currently, he is attempting to attract UFOs to a desired place by using telepathy, which was once “successful” in 2008, Seo said.
While Seo devotes himself to the analysis of various pictures of UFO sightings as his main job, Heo Joon is more actively engaged in UFO investigation, introducing himself as a UFO hunter.
What he does is to station himself in hotspots where UFOs are frequently observed and film sightings on his video camera when a UFO appears in the sky.
“I want to share more alive information with other people. My dream is to take an outstanding picture of UFO sightings and put it on the front pages of newspapers,” Heo said.
He was also fascinated by UFOs when he was an elementary school student, reading magazines about them and watching sci-fi films. But it was not until 2004 that he decided to become a UFO hunter as he observed the sightings of five UFOs in the sky with his own eyes for the first time.
“It was one of the best experiences ever. The thrill lasted for about three months. I couldn’t let it go. Although I had my video camera with me, I couldn’t film it, which was so shameful. So I wanted to capture such a moment again,” Seo recalled.
Jongno, Myeong-dong and areas around Han River are some of the hot spots where UFOs are frequently observed and he often stations himself there, he said.
“UFOs are often observed in those areas because there are many military facilities around them. Aliens seem to be really interested in collecting military-related information,” he said.
He strongly believes that frequent appearances of UFOs are the omen of bad things that can happen to the country and its people.
He thinks frequent appearances of UFOs last September and October were bad signs of the deadly attacks by North Korea last year.
He said what makes a good UFO hunter is patience, a positive mind and passion, but what’s really challenging is not only bad weather but also prejudice about UFO enthusiasts.
“Many people think we’re freaks or slackers who waste their life over some stupid things. That’s really discouraging. I’m not interested in earning more money as other people are. I think this is worthier than that,” Seo said.
He added that there is little difference between going to a gym and hunting for a UFO sighting as a hobby.
“Just look up at the sky once in a while in your busy day. That can simply relieve your stress as we lead a too dry life, and you may have a chance to observe something fantastic,” he said.
Ultimately, he wants to meet with aliens with a good heart, whose existence he is so confident.
When asked how he can be so sure about extraterrestrial life, he simply said, “We are not alone in the universe. That’s a waste of space, literally.”
These days, he is interested in theories that link the relationship between UFOs and the birth of religions, he said.
UFO를 쫓는 사람들
외계 생명체, 외계인들의 공격, 우주 여행. 이 모든 것들은 대부분의 사람들에게 비현실적으로 들릴 것이다. 그러나 UFO가 외계인들의 우주선이라고 믿는 연구가들에게는 아니다. 그들은 UFO에 대한 믿음은 우주를 이해하는 많은 방법 중에 하나라고 이야기한다.
“사람들은 너무나 회의적이어서 그들의 이해력을 너머선 것들에 관해 믿으려 하지 않는다”라고 서종한 UFO 연구가는 말했다. “여러 가지 가능성에 마음을 열 때만이 수많은 새로운 것들을 보고 이해할 수 있게 됩니다.”
서 연구관은 지난 30년간을 UFO 연구에 몰두해왔다. 그는 이러한 현상을 연구하는 것이 미래에 있을 높은 지능의 외계 생명체와의 만남을 대비하는데 도움이 될 수 있기 때문에 매우 의미 있는 일이라고 생각한다.
“지난 50년간, 세계 곳곳의 수많은 사람들로부터 UFO 목격담이 보고되어 왔습니다. 그들을 무시하는 것은 옳지 않으며, 과학적이고 객관적으로 그 같은 주장들을 연구하고 조사하는 것은 가치 있는 일이며, 이를 통해 우리는 무언가를 배울 수 있습니다,”라고 서 연구관은 말했다.
서 연구관이 UFO 목격 사진들을 분석하는 일을 주 업무로 하고 있는 반면, 허준씨는 보다 적극적으로 UFO를 조사하고 있다. 그는 자신을 UFO 헌터라고 소개했다.
그가 하는 일은 UFO가 자주 목격되는 곳에 가서 UFO가 나타나면 그것을 카메라에 담는 일이다.
“저는 좀 더 생생한 정보를 사람들과 공유하고 싶습니다,” 허준씨가 말했다. 제 꿈은 아주 멋진 UFO 목격 사진을 찍어서 신문 1면에 내는 것입니다.”
허준씨 역시 초등학교 시절 소년 잡지를 읽거나 또한 공상 과학 영화를 보며 UFO에 대한흥미를 키웠다. 그러나 그가 UFO 헌터가 되려고 마음을 먹은 것은 2004년 그의 두 눈으로 5대의 UFO를 목격한 이후이다.
“그것은 정말 가장 멋진 경험들 중에 하나였습니다. 그 감동은 석 달을 지속했습니다. 비록 카메라가 있었지만, 그것을 찍지 못했고, 얼마나 안타까웠는지 모릅니다. 그래서 그 같은 순간을 다시 찍어보고 싶어졌습니다.”