Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)

Traditional Gudeuljang Irrigated Rice Terraces in Cheongsando, Republic of Korea

GIAHS since 2014


Detailed Information



Site location:  Cheongsando Island, Wando County, Jollanam-do, Republic of Korea

Area of GIAHS: 0,05 km2

Population working for this system: 286 on the GIAHS site

Topological Characteristics: sandy and stony soil

Climatic Classification: humid temperate

Ethnic Groups/Indigenous People: -

Primary Income Sources: agriculture


Global importance

Between the 16th and the mid-20th centuries Gudeuljangnon, rice paddies have been created by re-arranging the natural environment to increase rice production in areas with disadvantageous soil and water conditions. The residents have constructed, maintained, and managed Gudeuljangnon and the irrigation systems as a means of livelihood. This is an example of effective use of the land, soil, water, and labor for survival.

Nowadays, this system must be conserved because of the diminution of youth practicing agriculture, the urbanization of the island but also to keep living this example of adaptation to a non-favourable environment.

Food and livelihood security

Traditionally, rice, barley, millet, and cotton plants have been cultivated in Cheongsando Island. Nowadays, Gudeuljang mainly produce rice which is the basis of the diet on the Island. The rice from Cheongsando Island is recognized in helping to promote the growth and development of adolescents, and can strengthen the immune system. In years with low precipitation, the rice paddies are converted into dry fields to make a complement

Moreover other lands are also used to grow garlic, onions, beans, radish, sesame, tubers and spring cabbages in dry fields for income, and not as staple foods. Currently these paddies allow the inhabitants of the island to fit their rice needs.

Biodiversity and ecosystem functions

First of all, there are different rice varieties which are grown on the Island. Besides, all the other vegetables are tubers increase the cultivated biodiversity. Plants found on Cheongsando Island, including the Gudeuljangnon areas, include 93 species.

Gudeuljang system prevents soil loss and improves the soil's ability to purify water. The water that flows through gaps between the stones and in the waterways provides an environment for reptiles, amphibians, and crustaceans such as the longtail tadpole shrimp. Last but not least, the surrounding forest ecotone is connected as an eco-corridor, increasing the biological diversity in the Gudeuljangnon.

Knowledge systems and adapted technologies

Gudeuljangnon are culverts constructed by stacking stones used as aqueducts of underground irrigation and drainage systems so as to preserve effective surface of paddies. It maximizes the usable area of the land by constructing the paddies above stacked rocks of various sizes, to increase the agricultural productivity.

Structurally, it appears similar to the terraced paddies distributed however; it is divided into four different layers. First, below the paddies, stones of various sizes are stacked to build a stone wall and a large, flat flagstone (Gudeul) is laid to support the ceiling of an aqueduct; soil is layered over this structure to provide arable land. Then, a red mud layer is added to prevent the loss of water and a layer of arable soil in which rice will grow.

Cultures, value systems and social organizations

Agriculture is part of the Cheongsando Island culture. To prevent worry and to wish for abundant agricultural and fisheries harvests, a traditional religion of each village conducted a ritual to the guardian divinities (Dangje). Besides, to tolerate the difficult labor, farmers often sing agricultural songs. The traditional Cheongsando Island culture, where rice was very scarce, naturally created a unique culinary culture.

Water stored has been managed by groups of 5 to 6 residents. The constituents of these groups were called Bojagin, and this is a type of a water-management cooperative. The group of Bojagin that manages a Bo is composed by the residents that live in nearby rice paddies.

Remarkable landscapes, Land and Water resources management features

In terms of the landscape, the Cheongsando Island Gudeuljangnon has the appearance of farmland placed atop stone walls. In particular, the exposed aqueducts at the edges of the fields are features that are unique to the Cheongsando Island Gudeuljangnon. Furthermore, a diverse cultural landscape is formed through the combination of surrounding villages, coasts, and lifestyles.

Indeed, stones were used in the past as the foundational material for buildings and villages. Houses and storage areas were built from stones, stone walls were constructed at the boundaries of roads, and low stone walls were built around fields to block the ocean wind. As such, the stone-stacking culture was a factor intimately related to the birth of Cheongsando Island Gudeuljangnon.