Environmental conference kicks off in Jeju

Posted on : 2012-09-07 15:32 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Major meeting takes place amid environmental destruction in Korea
 Sept. 6. They are protesting environmental damage currently taking place in Korea. (provided by Gangjeong Village Residents’ Association)
Sept. 6. They are protesting environmental damage currently taking place in Korea. (provided by Gangjeong Village Residents’ Association)

By Huh Ho-joon, Jeju correspondent

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s largest global environmental network, kicked off the 2012 World Conservation Congress in Jeju Island with the participation of thousands of participants involved in environmental conservation. The opening ceremony on September 6 was attended by over 4000 people including, President Lee Myung-bak and IUCN President Ashok Khosla.

The quadrennial Congress began amid protests by environmental groups and the people of Gangjeong Village against the construction of a naval base there, as well as the Four Rivers project. Environmentalists from overseas who were expected to join the protest were banned entry to Korea.

The Congress is being held under the banner of “resilience of nature” and will go on until September 15 with over 10 thousand people from 180 member states, governments, and NGO’s. The participants will closely study the condition of the earth‘s natural environment and approve major programs to be carried out during the next four years. The Congress will also be deliberating over 176 resolutions and recommendations put forward by the different governments and NGO’s. The one submitted by Korea will focus on “green growth as a strategy for sustainable development and preservation of nature.” The Korean government has made particular effort to publicize President Lee’s green growth policy during the conference.

Domestic environmental groups and bodies representing Gangjeong Village have held a separate press conference criticizing the IUCN and the Jeju conference for overlooking the administration’s policies that “may appear to be green but are actually environmentally unfriendly.” The 35 groups and Gangjeong villagers said in the press conference and picket protest, that the “Four Rivers Project and the construction of the naval base in Gangjeong are policies that go against the spirit of the IUCN and the WCC”. They urged participants to deal with the environmental destruction taking place on the Korean peninsula.

Two environmental activists including Umisedo Yutaka, president of the Japanese chapter of the IUCN, were prevented from entering Korea from Japan at Jeju International Airport on suspicion of being involved with the protest. There were five others to whom entry was refused on similar grounds.

On the same day, at around 5:30 am, five activists protesting the construction of the naval base climbed atop a barge at the site in protest. They were forced down by the police and taken into custody after holding the barge for three hours.


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