Prime Minister Chung Hong-won instructed officials Tuesday to devise ways to prevent recently discovered meteorites from being taken out of the country to better preserve them for research purposes, his office said.
His order came after the Korean Polar Research Institute confirmed earlier this week that two pieces of rock found last week some two days after a meteor shower in Jinju, some 434 kilometers south of Seoul, had come from space.
"As meteorites are precious materials for space research, it is necessary for the government to prevent them from being taken out to overseas and to come up with ways on how to preserve and make the most of them for research," Chung said during a meeting earlier in the day.
He also ordered the officials to seek ways to manage the assets in a comprehensive manner, including "reviewing whether the government is able to secure the rocks from individual owners and to designate them as a natural monument to ban them from being taken out of the country."
Dozens of people, as well as experts and even foreigners, have rushed to the southeastern city to hunt for meteorites, as the pieces sometimes command a hefty price depending on the rarity of the compositions.
By South Korean law, the person who first discovered the meteorite can exercise legal ownership.
South Korea does not own any meteorites. Back in 1943, a space rock was last found on its soil, but it is currently owned by Japan and on display here on a loan. (Yonhap)