Jeju Island, due to its insular traits, possesses distinctive environmental resources, whose picturesque scenery exhibits a unique local charm. Other valuable assets of the island include its natural environment represented by peculiar geological formations such as Mt. Halla, its mid-mountainous regions, parasitic volcanic cones, waterfalls, and lava tubes, alongside the various living conditions that are home to more than 7,800 species. The value of Jeju’s natural environment has been internationally recognized, as shown in its inscriptions as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2002, a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site in 2007, and a UNESCO Global Geopark site in 2010, as well as in its five Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance designations. Presumably, the values of the island’s unique, indigenous ecology could receive even more international praise than we can imagine.
Gaining momentum from the 2012 World Conservation Congress (WCC), the Jeju provincial government has established the island as a World Environmental Hub. During the WCC it hosted in 2012, the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province (JSSGP) expressed the will to develop its environmental value into a global brand and reestablish itself with a global social, economic, and environmental system to be recognized as a World Environmental Hub (WEH). To this end, the local government enacted the JSSGP Framework Ordinance on the Establishment of the WEH System and the Promotion of Low-Carbon and Green Growth in 2011. On this statutory foundation, the Master Plan for Establishing the WEH was developed in 2014 and is still in effect. The Moon Jae-in administration and the JSSGP have made several declarations concerning their intent to cooperate in promoting Jeju as a Northeast Asian Environmental Hub (NEH), while closely consulting with one another at the working level. Before its inauguration, the incumbent national government announced the “creation of an NEH for peace and human rights” as a local campaign pledge. Against this backdrop, South Korea’s Ministry of Environment (MOE) and the JSSGP have collaborated since October 2018 to realize Jeju as an environmental model city, which will contribute to the sustainable development of both the province and the region through systematically conserving and managing their environmental assets and improving their environmental values. Therefore, it is now time to prepare a specific vision for the promotion of Jeju’s NEH 2030 initiative. Promotional strategies in the environmental, social, and economic sectors should be developed for sustainable development while putting top priority on the conservation and management of Jeju’s excellent natural resources. The purpose of this paper is to emphasize the need for a consistent evaluation and monitoring system for the assessment of the promotion of NEH and suggest a system for government role allocation and cooperation for the realization of an NEH on Jeju Island.
In the 1990s, various concepts of “environment cities” appeared under the orientation of “environmentally sound and sustainable development,” such as the sustainable city, the eco-city, the low-carbon green city, and the carbon-neutral city. While making efforts to improve their environmental problems, these environment cities encourage their citizens to voluntarily engage in resolving related issues, and are thus considered more competitive than other cities. Freiburg in Germany, Curitiba in Brazil, and Kitakyushu in Japan are particularly recognized as environment cities by improving their environmental issues that were caused by industrialization and urbanization through encouraging voluntary civil engagement and introducing environmentally friendly alternative methods. The international awards for environment cities present overall indicators for environmental evaluation in selecting environmental model cities. Representative awards include the European Green Capital Award, Japan’s Eco-City Contest, and South Korea’s Green City Evaluation. The “environmental hub” can have different definitions depending on the vision, specialization strategies, and projects promoted by the city. The JSSGP also defined the environmental hub in its Master Plan for Establishing the WEH 2020 as “an excellent global city where the environment, economy, and society are well-harmonized and where everyone wishes to call home.” The NEH, with the target completion date of 2030, is defined as “an environmental model city, which raises Jeju Island’s environmental value through systematic conservation and management of its environmental assets to allow nature and people to coexist.” This definition was established by adopting the latest agendas, such as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and Habitat III Conference and the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives’ sustainable urban development framework.
The Vision and Plan for the NEH 2030 is a follow-up to 2014’s Master Plan for Establishing the WEH 2020, which was a 10-year plan developed on the legal foundation of the JSSGP Framework Ordinance on the Establishment of the WEH System and the Promotion of Low-Carbon and Green Growth (Article 5). Notably, the plan is a vision that considers the provincial government’s cooperation with the Moon administration’s campaign pledge and MOE-level efforts. In the 2nd World Leaders’ Conservation Forum held on Oct. 3, 2018, the JSSGP and the MOE signed an official agreement to cooperate on establishing Jeju’s vision for the NEH initiative. Based on this agreement, the JSSGP commissioned the Korea Environment Institute and the Jeju Research Institute to conduct the research project titled the Vision for the Establishment of Jeju as an NEH by 2030 from 2019 to July 2020. The purpose of the research project was to suggest guidelines on how to make Jeju an environmental model city and an NEH in order to contribute to the sustainable development of the region and Korea. Specifically, the following three aspects have been considered to establish the vision for the establishment of Jeju as an NEH:
First, the vision needs strategies based on the local conditions and characteristics of Jeju Island. In other words, the vision to develop Jeju into an environmental model city should be established by building on the island’s excellent natural environment, while strengthening and highlighting the efforts made by principle of choice and concentration. Second, the vision needs a process of managing its implementation. This means that the promotion of the environment model city should be regularly monitored and the provision for feedback on related policies and projects should be specifically designed. By the principle of transparency, timeliness, accountability, and feedback, the performance of each policy and project will have to be analyzed and diagnosed to further advance those with outstanding performances and readjust the policies and projects. Third, the vision needs to emphasize sustainability, which must not just focus on the environment but also consider the society and economy. Public opinion should be collected through public hearings, debates, and consultation meetings. On the basis of public opinions, media analyses, and the performance diagnoses of the Master Plan for Establishing the WEH 2020, the vision should secure sustainability, which considers the economic and social sectors as well as the environmental sector for the future of Jeju society.
Given these three aspects, the vision for the establishment of Jeju as a WEH by 2030 has been set in Jeju, an NEH Where People and Nature Coexist to Improve Environmental Value. To explain it in detail, Jeju will be developed into a WEH, which will allow everyone to fully enjoy the benefits of nature, raise the value of the environment through enhanced sustainability in all sectors of society, and contribute to the sustainable development of the Republic of Korea and Northeast Asia. To achieve this vision, the following specific goals have been determined: The first goal is “eco-Jeju with affluence.” Ultimately, Jeju will pursue to be a smart, environmentally friendly city, which works as an “eco-model city” to conserve and restore the natural and ecological environment and its damaged system, while allowing for the mutually beneficial existence of nature and people. The second goal is “circulating Jeju with cleanliness.” Through this goal, Jeju will turn itself into an ideal city of circulated resources, which manages its clean water resources based on circulation while pursuing carbon neutrality by means of an energy shift. The third goal is “sustainable Jeju with vitality.” By expanding its future-oriented green economy, stable job opportunities should be created in the green sector. The goal will help build a culture valuing the environment where cooperation is available through engagement and inclusiveness.
Establishing Jeju as an NEH requires as a prerequisite a systematic platform to promote the initiative. To this end, governance building and role allocation are required, which involve the JSSGP, as well as Jeju residents, the Jeju Special Self-Governing Provincial Council, NGOs, industries, research institutes, and national agencies (e.g. MOE). The JSSGP, as the key agent, should lead performance outcomes in close cooperation with local industries, residents, NGOs, and research institutes. Winning the bid for projects led by national agencies is also important to promote the NEH initiative, alongside diversified efforts to adjust the local budget and secure funds such as the environmental conservation fund and the environmental hub fund. The JSSGP also has the mandate to foster close cooperation with the national government to execute such funds as the cooperation charge on ecosystem conservation and the environmental improvement charge. The JSSGP should also form and operate the promotional committee and the working group for the environmental hub initiative, which will generally direct the seamless implementation of the related projects and readjust them based on the monitoring and evaluation results. Finally, the JSSGP should promote and support the enactment and revision of the related municipal ordinances for the initiative.
The national government represented by the MOE and other national agencies is the key stakeholder, which, as a partner of the JSSGP’s vision for the NEH initiative, decides whether or not to support the related strategic projects by reviewing their connectivity with the national initiatives, the necessity of supporting the projects, and the fulfillment of requirements. The national agencies can also provide support by considering the preparation of statutory grounds, such as revising the Jeju Special Act. Additionally, it will be necessary for the national government to institutionally and financially support the JSSGP at the international level by working with international organizations such as the United Nations and UNESCO, and consider the establishment of an international organization tentatively named the Global Research and Cooperation Center for Internationally Protected Areas.
Specialized research institutes such as the Korea Environment Institute and the Jeju Research Institute should study specific measures of the strategic projects to help establish Jeju Island as an NEH, while conducting surveys and research into the development of policies related to the environmental hub and their action plans. Should there be a change in local public awareness of the environment for the NEH initiative, the institutes will also take a long-term view to provide education programs and publicize the necessity of the initiative on a continued basis.
The key industries that drive the local economy will have to be accountable for promoting the provincial NEH vision by taking on the important role of practicing environmentally friendly business management to conserve the clean environment and inflict the least amount of harm to nature.
Finally, the most crucial role should be taken by the NGOs and the residents of Jeju Island. The NGOs will monitor the negative impacts of the strategic projects related to the NEH initiative, such as natural destruction and pollution. In doing so, they will facilitate the promotion of the projects that correspond to the vision. These efforts will lay the groundwork for building the individual capacity of Jeju residents as well as leadership, which is required to establish Jeju as an NEH. In the same context, the local community should foster active engagement and cooperation. Local community members will make concerted efforts to proactively engage in the initiative, while playing the role of observers. Above all, the citizens of Jeju Island will be recognized as core members of the environmental hub to establish the environmentally friendly lifestyle. The other vital roles Jeju residents will have to take on include reviewing the major plans and projects related to the NEH vision, electing members of the JSSGP Council, and having local lawmakers enact and/or revise the related municipal ordinances to facilitate the plans and projects promoted by the NEH vision and establish the NEH as a successful model.
Hong, Chang-yu is a research fellow at the Jeju Research Institute. Ph.D. in Urban Studies from the College of Urban and Public Affairs of Portland State University. Author of “Challenges and Achievements beyond Decision-Making Power of Planners: How Are Decisions on Planning for Stream Restoration Made in South Korea?” (2020) and co-author of “Regaining Tractability through Reframing of a Watershed Management Conflict: A Case of Southwestern Puerto Rico” (2020). Study underway on the socio-ecological case of building a global governance system for the climatic environment.