A Spatial Analysis of Korean Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

Protected area designation is essentially a spatial approach that attempts to regulate the human use of a space by preemptively labeling it as ┬┤protected.┬┤ Far from the title, however, a protected is not always "protected" in a rigorous sense. In effect, as reflected in the IUCN definition, a protected area includes diverse categories from those that are strictly preserved to those that are communally managed without a necessary legal protection.

This general concept of protected area turns to be problematic when it is applied to Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). A high mobility of marine species makes it difficult to designate an effective MPA with only partial protection. From a conservation perspective, a marine ecosystem can denote a wider ecological network including remote terrestrial space. An island ecosystem often stands as an independent ecosystem in terms of its particularity. In addition, the physical boundaries between marine and terrestrial space are never clear-cut but ambiguous and dynamic, which adds further challenges in delimitating an area that exactly falls into the MPA category.

As a result, a rigorous conceptualization of MPA is still debatable and countries tend to apply their own arbitrary rules in defining and managing MPAs. Korea has dual definition systems when it comes to MPA. A narrow definition includes only those administered by the marine affairs ministry, while a broader definition is applied to embrace those administered by other ministries and agencies. This project attempts to conduct an integrated spatial analysis of Korean MPAs. Using the ArcGIS software, diverse types of MPAs are collected and analyzed in a comprehensive manner. The results present the current status and the spatial expansion patterns of MPAs and the effectiveness of MPA policies since mid-1990s. It also demonstrates that the visual, spatial analysis can be applied effectively in analyzing the MPA policies and politics.

Geographical scope:

South Korea
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