Meteor Frenzy Paralyzes Research Labs

The Korea Polar Research Institute and Seoul National University's meteorite research lab have been inundated with phone calls and e-mails since the recent discovery of two meteorites in Jinju, South Gyeongsang Province.

There have been reports that the two meteorites are worth billions of won.

The two labs, the only meteorite research labs in the country, have been nearly paralyzed with a barrage of inquiries from people imagining they have found meteorites too.

The Korea Polar Research Institute has designated one researcher to deal with inquiries. Park Sang-bum of the team said, "There're so many e-mails that I can’t even conceive of opening the inbox."

This is also the case with the SNU. During the entire year of 2013, the school received 110 requests online for the authentication of meteorites. But between the meteorite shower on March 9 and Thursday it received a whopping 217, or two years' worth of inquiries in just 12 days.

On Thursday morning, traffic overload brought its website down.

Meanwhile, an official with the Korea Polar Research Institute said, "Most of the callers are men over 30 and speak in Gyeongsang or Jeolla accents,” probably because the meteorites fell in the south.

Experts speculate that the probability of finding a space rock bigger than 1 m in the Korean Peninsula stands at 1/3,000. An SNU spokesman said, "Many photographs of 'meteorites' that people have sent us turned out to be simply dark pebbles found in riverbeds."

"Every stone can look like a meteorite in a layman’s eyes," said Prof. Choi Byeon-gak at SNU. "We appreciate people's interest in meteorites, but now the frantic hunt for possible space rocks should stop."

englishnews@chosun.com / Mar. 21, 2014 12:11 KST