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Ji Geum Jong, Cultural Activist and Visionary
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승인 2013.01.15  19:03:35
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Ji Geum Jong has often been called a visionary.

Progressive thinker and cultural activist, Ji moved to Jeju from Seoul more than three years ago in order to establish an alternative village.

That project is still in the incubation stage, as his energy and interest was almost immediately diverted into the Gasi Village revitalization project. He has worked closely with village officials to bring an infusion of cultural events and resources as well as heritage programs and establishments to the area he now calls home.

His intentions for a utopian community best depict his visionary nature. He imagines a planned neo-liberal cooperative based on eco-cultural principles and socialist economic ideals -- "a socially-oriented, non-competitive economy" -- while not rejecting capitalism; he describes it as "collectivist with individual benefit."

Citing Spain's Mondragon federation of cooperatives in the Basque region, and Italy's numerous cooperatives of Bologna and Emilia Romagna, he is enthusiastic about developing such a community here on Jeju. His sustainable model would create and use all of its own resources, with a focus on alternative forms of education as well as healing therapies.

In Seoul, Ji was involved in the preservation and revitalization of cultural sites, in what he refers to as "cultural movement and policy-making" in both national government and NGO arenas. His background in policy development was broad, including urban development, environment, heritage, education, democracy, sports, media, and cultural studies. He speaks passionately about the distinction between "job" and "purpose."

Early this year he and six other investors established a culturally-oriented organization called Ieodo-Sana, named after the well-known haenyeo song that expresses longing for an Otherworld, a utopia represented by the faraway island of Ieodo. The structure of the organization was written broadly, to integrate many of the interests he had pursued in Seoul, all toward the goal of contributing to the development of a better, healthier community.

The organization, for which he serves as director, has opened a cooperative in Gasi Village which sells local products, and is managing the new Horse Museum in a joint venture with the Gasi Village Board.

Ji has also involved himself in several festivals, establishing in 2011 the now-annual Jungmun Saekdal Beach Festival, and organizing this year's Canola Festival, among others. He is an active member of Jeju Forum C and is a principle organizer of the new Socialist Economic Network, by which he hopes to encourage social, non-competitive models of economy and creative models for profit-making companies on Jeju.

Tangerine House, cooperatively owned by 20 investors primarily located in Seoul, has been built on his property in Gasi. Intended as an incubator of new ideas for a more progressive society, as well as a collective guesthouse, it is still in its inception phase.

Future plans, in addition to his cooperative-model community, include the revitalization of Jeju City's historic district, responsible and meaningful tourism by which the profits remain in Jeju, the creation of new jobs for youth to retain Jeju's young people and not lose them to the mainland, and the continued incubation of new ideas for which he hopes to engage the Jeju government.

Visionary, indeed.

Dr. Hilty is a cultural health psychologist from New York who now makes Jeju Island her home. In full disclosure, she is affiliated with Ieodo-Sana, the cultural organization mentioned in this article.

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Horse Museum and Wind Turbines. Photo by Anne Hilty
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