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Posted : 2011-03-02 18:41
Updated : 2011-03-02 18:41

Seoul joins hands with Tokyo, Beijing over Mt. Baekdu eruption

By Park Si-soo

South Korea plans to forge partnerships with Japan and China to tighten the monitoring of a possible volcanic eruption at Mt. Baekdu, a dormant volcano on the border between North Korea and China.

The Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA) said Wednesday that it will establish a hotline with China’s earthquake monitoring centers near the mountain this year and share knowledge and related technologies with Chinese experts.

It is also seeking to strengthen an agreement with a Japanese weather agency to collect real time volcano information and to obtain up-to-date monitoring techniques.

This international cooperation was sought from fears that the dormant 2,774-meter-high volcano was recently showing “a range of signs” of a possible eruption that experts say could devastate the mountain’s neighboring areas in China and North Korea and affect places as far away as South Korea and Japan.

Some geologists cautiously raise speculations that an eruption could take place in a couple of years.

“It’s unpredictable when it will erupt. But an eruption is a constant possibility,” Lee Hyeon, a KMA director general to monitor earthquakes, told reporters. “We will keep intensifying partnerships to cope preemptively and swiftly in the event of an eruption.”

Lee said the KMA will regularly discuss the possibility with the environment ministry and other related state bodies.

In further efforts the weather agency will spend 500 million won ($443,000) to launch a simulation program that can provide an expected trajectory of volcanic ash and other fallout in the event of a major eruption. The first results will be available around September this year, the agency said.

It will also intensify remote monitoring of volcanic activities in Mt. Baekdu using the nation’s first weather satellite Chollian and sound wave detectors.

According to historical records, Mt. Baekdu has remained an active volcano, defying the belief of many who thought it was dormant.

Major activity in the late 1940s created a caldera on its peak, whose circumference was nearly 14 kilometers with an average depth of 213 meters and a maximum of 384 meters.

Volcanic ash from this eruption has been found as far away as the southern part of Hokkaido, Japan, according to KMA records. Small-scale eruptions were recorded roughly on a centurial basis — in 1668 and 1702. The last volcanic eruption took place in 1903.

Based on geologists’ monitoring Mt. Baekdu began to show “unusual signs,” including minor tremors, in June 2002 when a 7.3-magnitude earthquake rattled areas in the vicinity of the mountain. The frequency of quakes has notably increased since then.

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