- Cheju Island
▪ island and province, South Koreaalso called Quelpart Island , Korean Cheju-doisland and (since 1946) do (province) of South Korea. It is in the East China Sea, 60 miles (100 km) southwest of Chŏlla-nam province, of which it formerly was a part. With an area of 705 square miles (1,825 square km), including 26 small associated islands, it is the smallest province of the republic. Oval in shape, Cheju Island measures 40 miles (64 km) from east to west and 16 miles (26 km) from north to south. The island is composed of a core of volcanic material that rises symmetrically to the crest of Mount Halla (6,398 feet [1,950 m]), which has a lake in its crater. The mountain and surrounding area is a national park. Hundreds of crater-formed hills from which volcanic material once flowed, seaside precipices with waterfalls, and lava tunnels are international sight-seeing attractions. Its oceanic climate supports some subtropical plants.Until 938 the island was an independent kingdom called Tamra-guk. During the Koryŏ period (935–1392) and the Yi dynasty (1392–1910), it was used as a place of political exile and for grazing horses. The Dutch seaman Hendrik Hamel, the first Westerner known to have visited Korea, drifted to the island in 1653 and introduced it to the West by the name of Quelpart.Although strategically related to Korea, Japan, and China, its harbours are not well developed because of its smooth coastlines and the submerged rocks that lie along the shores. Cheju, the capital city, is the island's principal port. A valuable marine product is a species of clam, the shell of which furnishes a special iridescent mother-of-pearl used for inlaid lacquer. Skilled women divers gather seaweed and shellfish. Sweet potatoes are the island's principal agricultural product, but it also supplies nearly all of the national demand for barley for beer. Oranges from the southern coast and a species of mushroom from the upland are important export products. In order to accommodate increasing numbers of international tourists, many towns on the island expanded their facilities during the 1970s. Pop. (1989 est.) 505,000.
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