July 8 (UPI) -- A South Korean river near the border with the North has been designated a UNESCO Global Geopark, according to local officials.
Gyeonggi Province said in a statement the Hantan River was recognized as a site of international geological significance on June 29, during the 209th session of UNESCO's executive board, South Korean news services Asia Business and Newsis reported Wednesday.
Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung and Gangwon Province Gov. Choi Moon-soon applied for the UNESCO recognition in November 2018, according to reports.
Gyeonggi Province applies for UNESCO certification every four years and operates visitor programs.
This week Lee said the new designation was possible due to the efforts of the two provinces and regional cities.
"I will work hard to develop and preserve the Hantan River so that it becomes a notable place of interest in Korea and beyond," said Lee, who ran for president in 2017.
The Hantan River includes some of the best-preserved volcanic landforms that were created when lava spewed out of Mount Ori, located in present-day North Korea. The volcanic eruptions may have taken place between 100,000 to 500,000 years ago on the peninsula.
The river is also home to prehistoric sites with evidence of the earliest forms of human settlement in present-day Korea, according to Newsis.
South Korea now has four UNESCO-designated Geoparks, including on Jeju Island, in Cheongsong in the southeast, and Mount Mudeung in the southwest, according to Yonhap.
UNESCO Global Geoparks are defined as a single, unified geographical area that has been preserved and promotes sustainable development, according to the U.N. agency. About 140 sites in 40 nations have received the certification.
South Korea has previously proposed the Korean demilitarized zone as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but the North has denounced the idea.