As Jeju officials prepared for the arrival of the ICUN World Conservation Congress team in early September and stepped-up their campaign to promote Jeju as the perfect choice to hold the congress; students from several of Jeju’s middle and high-schools were busy doing some campaigning of their own.
Recently, Jeju’s Ministry of Environment chose students from across the island to become members of the 4th Juvenile Leader of Preserving Natural Resources project. These students were then invited to come up with and implement their own conservation awareness projects. It’s something that they have thrown themselves into whole-heartedly.
“We think people should be aware that they should protect the environment,” said Moon Jin-ja, leader of team Kosari, for the protection of Jeju’s Mankyua Chejeunse plant and Gottjawal wetlands. It’s a sentiment that her fellow conservationists Ko Ki-Hwan and Kim Ye-ji share. They’ve been working tirelessly for three months to make more people aware of the rare plant and its home in Jeju’s wetlands.
▲ Yoon Deok-hyeong (far left) and his‘ Green Mulyeongari’teammates conduct conservation research at wetlands found at the top of Jeju’s Mulyeongari oreum. Photo courtesy‘Green Mulyeongari’team
Mankyua Chejeunse The Mankyua Chejeunse is part of the fern family and grows to around 10-15cms tall. It was discovered living in Jeju’s Gottjawal wetlands in 2001. “It’s an important part of Jeju history.” said Ko, adding: “The professor who found the plant thinks it’s from another country but it has disappeared from other countries.” He explained that because the plant is so rare and now exists only on Jeju, many people are trying to take it to put in their collections. He feels that this, combined with land being used up to make golf courses and other tourist sites, threatens the Mankyua Chejeunse and many other rare species with extinction.
The Gottjawal wetlands, found on the middle slopes of mount Halla, are of significant interest due to the plants and animals species that are specific to Jeju’s ecosystem. “People should be aware of Gottjawal which is the place where Mankyua Chejeunse and other species are,” said Moon, adding “people shouldn’t pick it up. They can inform the media about the wetland to say this plant is endangered.”
Team Kosari have been striving to promote their cause across Jeju; visiting the Jeju Weekly office and campaigning at the Delphic Games as well as at other important events and sites. They have also been busy handing out informative leaflets written in Korean and English to get their passionate views across. Moon also feels that Jeju is the ideal place to hold the WWC, saying: “First of all Jeju has a good climate and second of all it has many species and oreums and Hallasan.” Kosari‘s blog about their conservation campaign can be found at http:blog.naver.com/feelfri
▲ Left to right: Jung Seung-Hoon, Kim Ye-ji, Moon Jin-ju, Ko Ki-hwan, Yoon Deok-hyeong and Ko Gi-young; students from Jeju’smiddle and high-schools display their campaign posters. Photo by Cat LeverLeft to right: Jung Seung-Hoon, Kim Ye-ji, Moon Jin-ju, Ko Ki-hwan, Yoon Deok-hyeong and Ko Gi-young; students from Jeju’s middle and high-schools display their campaign posters. Photo by Cat Lever
Mulyeongari Oreum Another ecologically important site is Mulyeongari oreum; the only oreum in Korea to contain wetlands in its crater. These wetlands sustain around 210 species of plant, 47 species of insect, along with amphibian and reptile species; many of which are likely to become extinct without protection. Recently Mulyeongari was awarded official Ramsar designation as a conservation site but some conscientious students are concerned that this does not offer it enough protection.
Green Mulyeongari is a team dedicated to highlighting this threat. Its members Ko Gi-young, Yoon Deok-hyeong and Jung Seung-hoon from Dae-Ki High School, are concerned that nearby development might impact upon the status of Mulyeongari as a protected conservation site. They have reason to be concerned as during their attendance of UNESCO’s Natural Heritage Seminar they learned that sites can sometimes lose their classification due to development of the area around them.
The team is currently collecting signatures from Jeju residents to try and draw attention to Mulyeongari and the issues around it. “I think people don’t have interest in this matter because they think the matter of the environment is a somewhat difficult topic,” said Yoon, adding “we need to make citizens believe it’s not a difficult thing.”
Green Mulyeongari are certainly working hard towards this aim, having already collected more than 500 signatures. They are also getting their message across through art. Team member Ko designed Green Mulyeongari’s mascot- a cartoon character called Halla-saeng-ee, which means ‘the little horse who plays on the mountain’, who resembles a dolharulbang crossed with a centaur. It’s an ingenious idea, designed to appeal to their peers and grab attention; it certainly succeeds.
Passionate views While young people are frequently criticised for not taking enough interest in political and social issues around them, this claim cannot be levelled at the committed and passionate students involved in these conservation projects. “Now is the turning point between development and environment,” declares Jung, whose strong views are evident, “but Jeju environment is excluded by the political area.” He feels very strongly that this must change and that Jeju’s bid to host the World Conservation Congress is a great step in the right direction; his friends agree. “If we can draw people’s attention to environmental matters in Jeju and promote the beauty of Jeju’s natural environment I think it’s a good chance for Jeju,” said Yoon; truly a sentiment we can all echo. Green Mulyeongari’s blog about their conservation campaign can be found at www.blog.naver.com/gogiy02
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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