Korea Federation Environmental Movement: Summer Internship 2018

Korea Federation Environmental Movement: Summer Internship 2018

BY Kayla Adams, Bard 2019 

“The birds don’t lie.”

Nial Moores, Birds Korea

One hot summer August in South Korea, gave me an experience I will never forget. Last month, I was granted the opportunity to intern at the Korea Federation Environmental Movement (환경운동연합) in Seoul, South Korea. KFEM is a nationally recognized and distinguished NGO that campaigns for social consciousness regarding environmental conservation and sustainability. What is unique to KFEM is that not only do they have 54 local KFEM charters throughout South Korea but they also operate on a global scale as members within a network of international cooperatives. This summer I had the privilege of witnessing KFEM in action. My days were never the same. My days in the office would consist of editing English documents and sending emails to our international guests in preparation for “The Great Flight of the Shorebirds: Hwaseong Tidal Flat” international symposium in Hwaseong City. Other days were spent outside the office where I was following my supervisor Choony Kim, the Vice Secretary General of KFEM National Headquarters, to meetings regarding campaigns and conferences. I had also attended an exciting weekend business trip in Tong Young where I was introduced to the lead organizers of Tong Young KFEM and met several other local Korean professionals at the “Mainstreaming Marine Biodiversity for Healthy Ocean” conference. During this trip, we also took a boat ride on Suncheon Bay to observe first hand the conditions of the water and beaches. We came across a huge variety of rubbish and items that were not properly recycled that created major issues for marine life sustainability in this region. These careless acts left unregulated not only hurts the fish but also the people that depend on the bay.

My last few days interning at KFEM was spent in Hwaseong where I met Hwaseong KFEM, Hwaseong City government officials as well as representatives from several other international organizations from Japan, Australia and China as we all gathered for the “Great Flight” symposium. This was quite a remarkable event to see members from the local and global organizations, as well as local fishermen, come together to help push the Hwaseong City government to mark Hwaseong Bay as a Marine Protected Area (MPA) in an effort to preserve and restore its life. Ever since the reclamation of the Hwaseong Bay from the local government, has greatly disturbed and endangered the lives of the shorebirds such as the Black-faced Spoonbill and the Great Knots, as well as threatened fishing and vegetation industries. The purpose of this symposium was to show that everyone has a mutual relationship to the shorebirds; whether they realize it or not. The critical endangerment of the shorebird species reveals that there is a huge depletion of resources within their habitats. In fact, their habitats are rapidly decreasing in size due to the rise in factory and seawall constructions along the bay. If we don’t care about the lives of the shorebirds, then we simply are ignorant and complacent to our own problems.

Luckily throughout the symposium, ideas and strategies were exchanged successfully. At the end of the symposium we all participated in writing and signing the Hwaseong Declaration. Overall, I had a phenomenal experience working at KFEM thanks to the support of the LIASE Grant. Without the LIASE Grant, I would not have been able to participate in this amazing movement lead by amazing individuals. For that, I’m extremely grateful.

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