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GSL Public Lecture: Engaging geoscience for diplomacy – understanding Paektu volcano in North Korea

09 November 2020
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The Geological Society, Burlington House
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Mount Paektu is an active volcano which straddles the international border between China and North Korea (DPRK: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). The so-called Millennium Eruption of the volcano in 946 CE was one of the largest eruptions in recorded history - ranking alongside Thera (Santorini, Greece), Taupo (New Zealand) and Tambora (Indonesia). However, its location has largely hampered study to date.

In 2002, earthquakes, ground deformation and gas release pointed to a reawakening of the volcano, initiating a drive to monitor and understand it. In an unprecedented collaboration, hailed as a landmark achievement in science diplomacy, an international team from North Korea, China, the US and the UK have been studying the volcano since 2011.

This involved the deployment of an array of seismometers to image the magma beneath the volcano and the collection of geological samples for analysis of past-erupted deposits. In this lecture, James will discuss the scientific highlights of this unique project, as well as exploring how geoscience is uniquely placed for this kind of science diplomacy.


This lecture will be given twice on the day, once in the afternoon and once in the evening. You can book free tickets for your lecture of choice now via Eventbrite:

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James Hammond, Birkbeck - University of London

James is a Reader in Geophysics at Birkbeck, University of London. He received his PhD from the University of Leeds, and has spent time at the University of Bristol, Imperial College London and the University of Fukuoka (Japan).

His research is focused on geophysically imaging magma plumbing systems beneath volcanoes. He has worked on volcanoes all over the world, including a number which straddle international borders in regions undergoing significant political strain, such as Ethiopia-Eritrea and China-North Korea. Most recently he has led the Mt. Paektu Geoscientific Group (MPGG), a consortium of UK-North Korea-US scientists studying Mt. Paektu volcano.


Matinee lecture

2.30pm: Tea and coffee served in the Lower Library

3.00pm: Lecture 

3.45pm: Questions and answers

4.00pm: Lecture ends and guests depart

Evening lecture

5.30pm: Tea and coffee served in the Lower Library

6.00pm: Lecture

6.45pm: Questions and answers

7.00pm: Lecture ends and guests depart


The Geological Society
Burlington House

Live streaming

You can watch the lecture live via our streaming service on the day at 3.00pm and 6.00pm.


Please email with any enquiries.

Videos of past lectures can be viewed in our past meeting resources area.

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Book your ticket for the matinee lecture >>

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The Geological Society
Burlington House