Korea Cities Tour: Wrap-up

This is final entry on my Korean cities tour, sponsored by the US Dept. of State and US Embassy in Seoul.

I’m back in the US after five days in Korea, on a hectic, though quite successful visit to cities of Seoul, Changwon and Busan to lecture at universities and meet with Korean officials about the development of green cities.

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Seoul Redux

I took a relaxed journey to Seoul on the high-speed Korean National Rail from Busan–I loved the way the conductors ceremoniously bow to the passengers after entering or before leaving each train car, and the Korean folk music that plays before each station announcement. We then went to Seoul National University, where I was to deliver a lecture at the school of Architecture and Urban Design and graduate school of Environmental Studies.

(Seoul National University is the top public educational institute in the nation.)

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First we made a courtesy visit to the Dean of  Architecture and Urban Design, Kiho Kim.  Dr. Kim told us he is preparing this summer to open the Asian Sustainability Institute on the campus, the first such institute for all of Asia. I look forward to collaborating with Dr. Kim and other partners on the institute’s positioning and planning.

Seoul National University in conjuncton with the city of Seoul is also hatching a plan to make the university campus a living model of a creative and green neighborhood, celebrating the arts, cultural attractions and the latest in sustainable urban planning, design and technology. Think of a green Dinkytown, the off-campus neighborhood near the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where Dr. Kim previously taught, he told us.

After lunch with Dr. Kim and professors Kyung-Jin Zoh and Jong-Sang Sung, I lectured to about 50 professors and students, including one professor that is working with the Korea Land Corporation on the Korea cities indicators project I mentioned in my second-previous blog entry (see “Halftime Report” blog from March 12).

Our final stop was Seoul City Hall to present to and meet officials from the city’s “Green Seoul” program. Seoul’s sustainability efforts appear to be more siloed than those of leading US cities, with “green” efforts having separate city management from such areas as city public transportation, fleet management and renewable energy.

On the subject of climate change and carbon action planning, however, I was told by Seoul Green deputy director Yoon Jong Choi that Seoul will be sponsoring the C40 Large Cities summit meeting of the world’s most populous 40 cities, sponsored by the William J. Clinton Foundation’s Climate Initiative. I attended the first C40 summit in New York City last spring and hope to be back in Seoul for the next C40 event in 2009.

green tea cappaccino

My final night in Seoul was spent checking out the very cool Myeongdong neighborhood with the US Embassy’s Eun Kyong. We had green tea lattes and cheesecake, made from local organic tea grown in the southwest of Korea. Turns out Koreans are also very concerned about pesticide and pollution food contamination from Chinese imports, especially heavily pesticide sprayed tea.

Huge thanks to Choi Eun Kyong, assistant cultural affairs officer Jeffrey Beller, Jean Vander Woude, John Dyson and my interpreter Kim Chi Young for all their excellent planning, cultural guidance and hard work in putting the trip, lectures and meetings together. It’s extremely heartening to know that the US Embassy has such high-caliber representation overseas!

I’m sure future developments resulting from this tour will be forthcoming. I’ll keep you posted.

Photos: Warren (top two); Flicker: LWY
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