▲ Lee Joon-baek, professor of Marine Biology at Jeju National University
Initially started in the USA with the goal of solving fishery and coastal area issues, the Sea Grant project was benchmarked by the Korean government in 2009 in order that they might develop their ocean sciences, and in an attempt to solve issues relating to pollution and climate change.
Six Sea Grant projects are currently underway across the Korean peninsula, five of which are located on the mainland, the sixth being Jeju Island; an obvious choice for inclusion. Jeju’s Sea Grant project seeks to undertake many things in order to improve Jeju’s ocean sciences and ocean economy; these will include outreach programs, improvement of education, and the provision of information and investment in research and development.
The education of students is considered especially important, along with plans to focus research on the East China Sea; the area of ocean between China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan. The ultimate goal of those implementing the program is to enhance Jeju’s ocean industry and establish cooperative relationships with these nearby countries. Core areas within the program will focus on tourism and PR, beach clean-up operations, a marine biology camp for middle and high-school students and discussion of suggested solutions to the problem of climate change and rising sea-levels.
Plans are being put into preparation now but the main program will not begin until January next year. Promotional leisure activities will be expanded such as yachting and kayaking as leisure is considered to be an element vital to the expansion of the industry.
▲ Students from Jeju National University collect samples from Jeju’s rock pools. Photo courtesy Jeju Sea Grant Project
Changing perceptions For Professor Lee of the Marine Biology department at Jeju National University and director of the Sea Grant; this is a unique endeavour. He hopes it will educate Jeju people into thinking more positively about the ocean, “Jeju people and Korean people think the ocean is very dangerous. My mother said it to me when I was a kid.” He went on to explain that because Jeju’s survival historically depends on the ocean as a source of food and income, people find it difficult to view it as something that can be used for leisure purposes, adding: “The sea is our rice field so we make money from the sea.” He hopes that the Sea Grant program will help to change this and lead to more Jeju people using the sea for relaxation and recreational purposes.
He believes that the first step of the project is to “gather the issues” and study all factors relating to Jeju’s ocean industry. By December he hopes they will have decided just how to implement the project. Jeju’s yachting industry will play a large part in the development as the island aims to improve yacht tourism and ideas for a yacht port and yacht-building factory are already under discussion.
One of the key elements of the planning is the notion of sustainable development. Lee feels that it’s necessary to “find a solution between development and preservation. I think preservation is first, then development.” He explains that development will be inevitable “if we want the income to increase from the ocean.”
It may be interesting to note that in the USA, the majority of citizens display very little interest in what development takes place concerning their oceans; on Jeju it is very different. Jeju people have a vested interest in their ocean as it is intrinsically tied to their long history and their way of life. This is especially true of Jeju’s Haenyeo women divers, who, Professor Lee explains “don’t like me and my students, when I go to sea to collect samples.” He feels that people need to adjust to the changes that are going on around them as the ocean gradually ceases to be the domain of the few and becomes a place of leisure and business for many.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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