INCHEON (Yonhap) ― Culture preservation officials said Sunday they will be discussing measures to prevent recently discovered meteorites from being taken out of the country and make them the first set of space rocks to be owned by South Korea.
The Korea Polar Research Institute (KOPRI) confirmed that the two rocks found last week in Jinju, 434 kilometers south of Seoul, as “ordinary chondrite” of high iron composition. Given the proximity of where they were found and the similarity in their composition, the institute believes that they are from the same rock.
The last time a meteorite was found in South Korea was 71 years ago in 1943. The meteorite is currently owned by Japan and is on display in the country on a loan.
There isn’t an active trading of meteorites in South Korea, but specialized collectors often flock to discovery sites to gather pieces that sometimes command a hefty price depending on the rarity of the compositions.
Witnesses said they spotted foreigners in the area handing out business cards, apparently to buy the rare rocks.
By South Korean law, the person who first discovered the meteorite can exercise legal ownership. KOPRI said that if the owners decide to sell off the rocks, the institute would not be able to conduct any research or studies, losing out on a rare academic opportunity.