|▲ Kim Yang Bo, far right, above, and right, was part of the Jeju delegation to the IUCN meeting, as were Minister of the Environment, Lee Man Lee, and Jeju Governor Kim Tae Hwan. Photos courtesy Jeju provincial government, Song Jung Hee
When Jeju was announced as the venue for the 2012 IUCN World Conservation Congress on Nov. 26 in Switzerland, Kim Yang Bo was excited and very proud. The environmental policy director for the Jeju provincial government was part of the Jeju delegation at the event, and also helped host the WCC team when they visited Jeju from Sept. 14 to Sept. 18.
He said there were about 100 people present, including Jeju Governor Kim Tae Hwan and Korean Minister of the Environment Lee Man Lee, when the announcement was made.
“The director general said the winning country was Jeju, Korea. All the people were surprised at the scene.” “Hearing that was the most impressive thing in my life.”
That may seem an excessive statement, but by hosting the Congress, Jeju will be on center stage before environmental leaders from 180 countries. The province beat out Cancun, Mexico, to win that honor, which the government believes is worth 120 billion won in economic and related benefits.
Three aspects led the inspection team to favor Jeju over the Mexican resort, Kim said. “They looked around at the whole province from ocean to mountain because they wanted to see the real natural scenes on Jeju Island. They said Jeju has a fantastic natural environment. And then, we have a special law for conferences.” That law will allow Congress participants from all 180 countries to visit Jeju without visas.
The third deciding factor was the strong support shown by both the Central Government and everyday Koreans for Jeju to host the Congress.
In its release announcing the decision, the IUCN commended a signature book signed by 1.3 million members of the Korean public expressing support, and a commitment signed by the National Assembly. It also cited Jeju’s World Heritage and wetland sites; excellent facilities at the International Convention Center, where the Congress will be based; and a comprehensive volunteer recruitment plan as just a few factors in securing the final decision. In announcing the decision, IUCN president Ashok Khosla said, “Not only does Jeju have sound experience in organizing large, complex events, it also has a strong environmental track record.”
The next step in planning the Congress will be a return visit to Jeju by inspection team leader Enrique Lahmann sometime in January. This visit will be to negotiate and finalize details of a Memorandum of Understanding to be signed between the IUCN, Korea and Jeju. The MOU is scheduled to be signed in March.
Looking ahead to 2012, Kim sees the Congress participants becoming unofficial ambassadors for Jeju Island. “At that time, the world’s leading environmentalists will visit Jeju Island at the Congress and see our natural resources and they will feel Jeju Island,” he said. “After that, they will go back to their home towns and they will tell all about Jeju Island.”