Geologists are warning of a volcanic eruption within a few years on Mt. Baekdu, the mountain on the border between North Korea and China traditionally seen as the birthplace of the Korean nation.
Yoon Sung-hyo, a geologist at Pusan National University, who has been researching Mt. Baekdu along with Japanese and Chinese experts, said Friday there are "clear signs" of a Mt. Baekdu eruption in the near future, with Chinese experts expecting it to happen between 2014 and 2015.
Yoon called on the government to be prepared. He cited several pieces of evidence, including bubbles in Heaven Lake, or Cheonji, on top of Mt. Baekdu, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake along the North Korea-Russia border in February that may have been caused by magma under Mt. Baekdu, and the fact that the mountain has been steadily rising in height.
"There are records that show volcanic ash falling as far away as Japan when Mt. Baekdu erupted between 946 to 947 A.D. during the Koryo Dynasty," Yoon said. "At that time, between 83 to 117 cubic km of volcanic ash was created, which is about 1,000 times more than during the eruption in Iceland this spring, according to Japanese experts." An eruption on Mt. Baekdu could result in a major catastrophe.
Officials at the Korea Meteorological Administration, which invited Yoon for a lecture last week, pledged to come up with response to all possible scenarios. The KMA is evaluating data gathered from China, which built an observatory on Mt. Baekdu to monitor volcanic activity, and will launch joint research with other agencies including the National Emergency Management Agency.
Fears of a Mt. Baekdu eruption rose when hundreds of tremors occurred near the mountain each month since June 2002, and the 6.9 magnitude quake along the border intensified them.