The Korea Herald


Gator sighting jolts idyllic town; search continues for 3rd day

By Choi Jae-hee

Published : June 16, 2023 - 14:05

    • Link copied

Museom Village in Yeongju City, North Gyeongsang Province (Courtesy of Youngju City) Museom Village in Yeongju City, North Gyeongsang Province (Courtesy of Youngju City)

The search continues for a purported alligator in an otherwise idyllic village in the southern city of Yeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, after five people reported sightings of the reptile in a slow-moving stream that encircles the rural town.

Despite having found no trace of a reptile, the city is not letting its guard down as of Friday, with four officials dispatched to monitor the vicinity of the purported sighting. It also plans to conduct a drone search of the area, officials said.

“Since alligators cannot inhabit the natural environment in Korea, there is a possibility that someone intentionally released a pet alligator in the stream,” said a city official who wished to remain anonymous.

On Tuesday at around 7 p.m., four farm workers from the Philippines and a local resident witnessed an alligator measuring about a meter long while crossing a bridge that connects to Museom Village across Naeseong Stream.

They told local authorities that the reptile briefly emerged from the water before submerging itself back into the stream.

Officials from the city government launched a search the next day, but have not found any evidence to indicate the presence of a reptile habitat in the stream.

The news of an alligator potentially inhabiting the stream that flows through the southern section of Yeongju jolted local residents.

"Many parents were shocked by the news because the village is a popular spot for water activities among children. I will definitely not go near that area for the time being," said a 26-year-old man surnamed Kim residing in Yeongju.

Online communities of mothers in Yeongju saw a flood of postings voicing concerns over the appearance of the alligator.

“It’s scary that the alligator has not been captured yet,” one user wrote.

Another commented, “It is going to be a big problem, if (the reptile) travels along the stream.”

The reptile scare is a particular concern for the village of Museom, close to where the reptile was sighted.

Encircled by the stream and its sandy riverbanks on three sides, the lotus-shaped folk village of some 40 traditional houses has been one of the most popular tourist spots in Yeongju.

Between January 2022 to May 2023, 502,839 locals and foreigners visited the village for sightseeing, according to data compiled by Yeongju City.

About 20 of the village’s old houses are inhabited by locals.