Committee withholds plan to build levee to protect prehistoric engravings

SEOUL, Jan. 16 (Yonhap) -- A cultural committee on Thursday put off its decision on the construction of a mobile levee in the southern city of Ulsan to protect a set of prehistoric engravings, citing the lack of feasibility of the plan.

The Ulsan municipal administration and the central government earlier proposed a plan to encircle the Bangudae Petroglyphs, located on the lower part of a cliff in a tributary, with a transparent, 55-meter-long and 16-meter-high wall.

The Cultural Properties Committee under the Cultural Heritage Administration has reviewed a plan for the dam construction proposed by the Ulsan city government and the central government.

The committee said it has decided to withhold making a decision due to the project's lack of detailed plans to ensure that it will be a makeshift facility.

"The so-called kinetic dam should be a makeshift structure, so we demanded the Ulsan city government to submit a detailed action plan to ensure this," Kim Dong-wook, chief of the committee, told reporters. Also demanded was a plan to ensure safety of the new structure, he added.

The committee said it will meet again after the requirements are addressed.

Officials have said the so-called kinetic dam, set to be made with steel frames and transparent polycarbonate material, will effectively protect the rock art from being damaged by inundation as it is easy to move and dismantle and as its height will be adjusted according to the water level.

The levee, if completed, would help South Korea's efforts to apply to have them listed on the UNESCO world heritage list by 2017.

The engravings on the rock surface of Bangudae Cliff were first discovered in 1971 by a team of experts from Seoul's Dongguk University and were designated as the country's National Treasure No. 285. They were listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List in 2011.

The engraved drawings are of several humans, animals, ships, tools and nets. Experts say they are presumed to have been made some time between the late Neolithic period and the Bronze Age.

The engravings, however, are only visible for about six months of the year because the Sayeon Dam, constructed downstream in 1965, traps water, submerging them under water for the rest of the year. Such a pattern of repeated submerging has eroded and damaged the engravings, according to experts.

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