▲ Governor Kim Tae-hwan (right) greets WCC inspection team leader Enrique Lahmann. Photo by Kim Doo-young, Media Jeju
September is an important month for Jeju, as not only has the island hosted the Third Delphic Games but it has also welcomed the IUCN World Conservation Congress team to its shores. The team met with Governor Kim Tae-hwan on Sept. 13 before attending a presentation on Sept. 14, given by the International Convention Centre about their facilities. Team members were then given a tour of the convention centre itself and nearby accommodation. For the rest of their time on the island they will visit Jeju’s most stunning natural attractions. Security and visa related issues will also be under discussion.
The team’s overall aim is to analyse whether the island has the capacity to host the WWC; the biggest conservation conference in the world which is scheduled to take place in 2012. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s World Conservation Congress is held every four years, with the aim of improving the ways in which nations manage their natural environment, especially with regard to economic development.
In 2008, the WCC was held in Barcelona, Spain. More than 10,000 people attended, including 6,600 important figures from political, business and social arenas; alongside representatives from the UN and non-governmental agencies. The focus of the congress was to debate the current issues affecting our global environment and to discuss solutions to pressing problems.
▲ With boundless natural beauty and unique ecosystems, Jeju Island is a strong candidate to hold the 2012 World Conservation Congress. Photo courtesy Jeju Provincial Government
Jeju is currently competing with Cancun, Mexico, to host the 2012 congress; although many Jeju officials feel that the island is the obvious choice due, not only to its practical hosting capabilities but its natural beauty and UNESCO World Natural Heritage sites. “Jeju has a beautiful natural environment, enough to be called the Mecca of environment in the world. “ Jeju Governor Kim Tae-hwan said, adding: “With the designation of UNESCO Biosphere reserve, and World Natural Heritage Site, as well as Ramsar sites of Jeju have proven its world-class level environment conservation program and work towards achieving the IUCN’s vision.”
When considering all that Jeju has to offer, it is not difficult to understand Governor Kim’s confidence. Jeju’s Manjang Cave is the world’s longest lava tube at 13,422 metres; Mulyeongari oreum is Korea’s only oreum with wetlands in its crater and Jeju’s Gotjawal wetlands, on the slopes of mount Halla, are home to many endangered species, some of which can only be found on Jeju Island; these combined with Hallasan itself and tuff-cone Seongsan Ilchubong, lend extraordinary weight to Jeju’s claim to be environmentally unique.
▲ The Indo-Australian stag-beetle (left) and Blue-winged Pitta (right) are just two of Jeju’s wild inhabitants in need of protection. Photo courtesy Jeju Eco-Forest Foundation
Jeju residents also feel their environment is unique and deserving of the international attention that hosting the WCC would bring. Minister of Environment Myung Maa-nee, is proud to be able to present the WCC team with one million signatures from Jeju’s residents, illustrating the commitment of ordinary citizens to the conservation of their island. “The bid proposal has been prepared with the full support of many non-governmental organisations and local citizens,” he explains, in his welcoming message.
A number of high-profile figures have also joined the cause, including Former President Lee Hong-gu who now chairs the WCC Organising Committee, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Yu Myung-hwan and many more government ministers and lawmakers.
The dedication to the natural environment demonstrated by Jeju officials and its residents is illustrative of President Lee Myung-bak’s drive towards an environmentally friendly South Korea. His slogan “Low Carbon, Green Growth” encapsulates the nation’s vision for the future. His aim is for Korea to set an example to the international community about how to successfully balance conservation with development, how to preserve ecological treasures and how to inspire citizens to get involved with environmental issues. With the full support of Jeju people and the passion of its conservationists; it would appear that Jeju Island is already leading the way.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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