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Salterns

Date of Submission: 11/01/2010
Criteria: (iii)(v)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Cultural Heritage Administration
State, Province or Region:
Yeonggwang-gun, Sinan-gun in Jeollanam-do
Ref.: 5484
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

Coordinates:

Yeonggwang Saltern: N35 15 58 E126 19 56

Sinan Saltern: N34 59 35 E126 10 34

 

Salterns located at Sinan-gun and Yeonggwang-gun in Jeollanam-do, is where sea salt is produced with the use of mudflats.

Jeollanam-do is the central region for Korean salt production. Sinan-gun holds a dominant position in the consumer market, and Yeonggwang-gun's products are essential for related industries. Yeonggwang salt is used for making jeotgal, or pickled seafood, and gulbi, or dried yellow croakers, both of which are traditionally salted foods in Korea.

There are a variety of methods for producing salt. But the process used in both regions differs significantly from others in their production process. The salt from Sinan-gun and Yeonggwang-gun is sea salt made on reclaimed tidal flats. The process begins by storing sea water in reservoirs to increase the water's salinity. When the brine reaches a specific concentration, the water is moved to checkered fields (salterns) for natural evaporation. The salterns consist of evaporation ponds and crystallization ponds, as well as brine warehouses called haeju. The salt crystals produced here are stored in silos for two to three years to remove the remaining bittern and improve the taste.

Sinan-gun is comprised of many islands, so salt production has developed over a long time. The salt from Sinan-gun usually reaches the market after the bittern is removed, which takes about a year, while Yeonggwang-gun's products are mostly used in the jeotgal and gulbi industry, after a two- to three-year-long process of bittern removal.

The salterns in Sinan-gun and Yeonggwanggun date back to the late Joseon Dynasty in the 19th century when the process of making sea salt was first introduced from Japan. In fact, the area originally served as key sites for the then prevalent "parched salt" making methods-creating salt by boiling sea water that was previously stored in mudflats. The existence of this tradition proves that the region has long been an ideal location for salt production due to the advantages of the natural environment. Furthermore, the salterns are mainly distributed along the western coast of the Korean peninsula, which holds one of the world's five most important tidal flats. Korean tidal flats contain a high proportion of organic material, and the diverse species in these estuaries help to increase the mineral content, such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium, in the salt. As a result, sea salt accounts for the vast majority of salt supply in Korea, where fermented foods are well developed. In addition, as salt is traditionally symbolic of purification in Korean shamanism, it constitutes an important element of Korean folk culture. Finally, this salt has been used for military purposes, architecture, and clothing.

Korean salterns consist of three parts: reservoirs, evaporation ponds, and crystallization ponds. In addition, there are haeju, or brine tanks, salt silos, and resident facilities for salt makers. Reservoirs are used for storing sea water, and evaporation ponds increase the water's salinity with the help of the sun and the wind. On the fields for crystallization, the saline water turns into salt crystals. But it takes one to three years for the salt to be sold as a finished product, because the bittern is extracted during the storage process. Meanwhile, haeju, or brine tanks, are found only in Korea, where they are built in preparation for the monsoon season.

Salterns mark the borders between tidal flats and human habitats; they straddle the line between nature and culture. They are significant for fish production (as a fish habitat), purification of pollutants, aesthetic appreciation, and flood control. In addition, they serve as a rest spot for endangered migrant birds, such as plovers and black-faced spoonbills. In other words, the continuance of salterns ensures the continuance of the region's ecological system, economy, and local culture.

Salt is also produced from tidal flats in other countries, but these regions in Korea are highly valued in terms of their natural conditions, including tidal flats, the sun, and the wind, which are coupled with human creativity. In addition, although there have been changes in the usage of tidal flats and developments in power supply for transporting water, along with other technological developments,  the environment and natural salt production methods maintain the outstanding value of these saltworks as a living industrial heritage.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

(iii) bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared

The use of tidal flats is a creative approach to salt production, as chemical and physical constitutions of tidal flats are considered in the process.

 

(v) be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change

Salterns are the result of human interaction with the environment and are also an outstanding example of sea water usage. They show the continuity of a living culture in which people have long employed the natural environment to produce items necessary for daily life.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Authenticity

The process of producing Korean sea salt from tidal flats is very unique. Sea water is stored in reclaimed-mudflat reservoirs to increase the salinity of the water. The water is then moved to checkered salterns, made of silt and clay, for evaporation. The resulting salt crystals are deposited in storage for two to three years to extract the bittern. Each of these steps contributes to the high quality of the Korean salt, which has a unique and less salty flavor.

 

Integrity

As most salterns are located along the coastline, where banks are built to use tidal flats, harmonious interaction with nature is regarded as essential for salt production. Therefore the wise, scientific use of the environment found in the Korean salterns-demonstrated by the slope-sided fields used to link the reservoirs to the crystallization ponds and warehouses for the rainy season-also prove the sites' integrity no less than their authenticity.

Comparison with other similar properties

In the country

Traditionally, Koreans made salt by boiling sea water, and this salt was called "parched salt," "fire salt," "boiled-down salt," or "flesh salt." The tidal flats salterns were first used widely in Gyeonggi- do, Juan, and Soraepo in the city of Incheon. They since spread along the coastline of the West Sea, including Gomsoman Bay in Jeollabuk-do and Sinan-gun and Yeonggwang-gun in Jeollanam-do. The salterns where sea salt is produced in Korea developed in regions of historical significance where "parched salt" was produced in harmony with the natural environment. In addition, while the salterns are universally distributed along the coastline of the West Sea, only Sinan-gun and Yeonggwang-gun use pure tidal flats salterns as large-scale salt production facilities, which yield great quantities of high-quality salt. Given these facts, the two Korean sea salt regions are anthropologically important, and thus they merit preservation as a World Heritage site.

Taepyeong Salterns, the largest saltern in Korea, the Stone Salt Silo, which is now used as the Salt Museum (both located in Jeung-do, Sinan-gun), and Daedong Saltern (in Bigeum-do, Sinan-gun) are designated as Registered Cultural Heritage of Korea. In addition, Jeung-do, Sinan-gun is designated as a Tidal Flats Provincial Park in Korea, and is also a member of Cittaslow, the first town in Asia to do so.

 

Out of the country

Although a majority of countries produce refined salt from halite, there are also regions that produce sea salt. In particular, Guerande in France is well known for its ideal climate for sea salt production, thanks to the abundant sunlight, dry weather, and sufficient wind of the Atlantic region. It was registered in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance in 1995. Compared to Korean sites where salt is produced on a daily basis, the French salt marshes churn out salt every two or three days. Also, in Savoy and Sicily, Italy, salt is collected only once or twice a year with machines after piles of salt crystals are left out in the fields for several months. In terms of flooring, the Guerande sites continue to use soil panels, but Korean saltern panels have been changed to include a variety of more developed forms, including soil, pottery shards, tile, and plastic mats. Meanwhile, Dampier in Australia where salt is produced in large fields is considered an ideal place for producing sea salt thanks to the hot, dry weather conditions, comfortable port, and broad infrastructure for resources. There, machines are used for all operations. Japan, which introduced sea salt to Korea, began to yield refined salt in 1972; since then, old salterns have all but disappeared, though it is said that solar salterns have recently been reopened in Kagawa, Okinawa. The Japanese extract sodium chloride from sea water by exchanging eons. In Vietnam, salt is harvested once or twice a year in Ho Chi Minh fields. Sea salt fields can also be found in Hainan Island, China, where salt is also produced only once or twice a year.

Hallstatt in Austria, where salt mines are located, was designated as a World Heritage of an ancient city, and Wieliczka Salt Mines in Poland, another registered World Heritage, has a long history of salt mining, dating back to the 13th century.

Lakes, valleys, and wells found around the world are also used to produce salt. The representative sites include the Dead Sea salt lakes, the Great Salt Lake in the U.S., Shenhai brine wells in China, and Yanjin salt valley on the Tibetan Tea-Road.

With its distinct seasonal divisions and high rates of evaporation, outpacing rainfall only in summer, Korea's multi-step evaporation method results in an effective brine concentration for producing sea salt. The Sinan-gun and Yeonggwang-gun tidal flats salterns in particular are among the most creative and advanced of the world's saltern heritage.