Korea Green Cities Tour: Halftime Recap

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I am in the midst of a whirlwind green cities tour of Korea, lecturing and meeting with people on green city development and metrics. Tour was set up by State Department and US Embassy as part of a cultural exchange.

Day One:

Seoul 

Radio interview for Cafe USA, which also was filmed for Korean portal “Daum” (listen online). Met with Green Transport NGO leader Min Man-gee, first group to focus on transportation in this city of 10 million. They try to ensure safety for pedrestrians, cyclists and improve planning and use of public transit. Green Transport provides funds for families of victims killed in traffic. Amazing. Reported 64% public transit use in Seoul Metro, which they are trying to get increased to 70%. Seoul is already better in terms of ridership than anything in US (NYC 55%). I hope to blog more about this more in detail for Worldchanging.com

Lunch in Seoul old town area with professors from Chungang University, Konkuk Univesity, Kookmin University, Inceon Development Institute and Eco Plan Research Center. Talk of urban forest preservation and restoration. Korean food is a rich secret: fish, sauces, kim chee, cooked roots and radishes, numerous short-rice courses and broths. No barbecue in sight.

Korean Green Foundation. Turns out the foundation’s energetic Executive Director Yul Choi is a former recipent of Goldman Prize in 1995, where my wife worked as program executive for 14 years. She recommended I look him up, but he was already on my schedule thanks to Embassy/State Department schedulers and we met and had dinner together after my presentation. I agreed to be on the advisory board of this, Korea’s largest Environmental NGO along with Jane Goodall, Helena Norberg Hodge and Lester Brown. Did interview for national MBN TV to air Wednesday.

Day Two

Gyeonggi Province

This morning I presented to Korean Land Development Corporation, the government agency responsible for nation’s planning and land development. I lectured to and was grilled by about 50 staff members in urban planning, “new town” development and clean transportation division. In the end I was invited to collaborate on ranking Korea’s cities on green factors by director of that extensive effort, Duck Bok Lee. Lunch of more yummy, mostly unidentified stuff.

Photos by Warren: KLDC banquet, lunch fare

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busan bullet.jpgBusan

I write from Korea’s second largest city, Busan (they don’t call it Pusan anymore), which has about 3.5 million people, a giant port town in Southeast, where I took a bullet train with program people from State Dept./ Embassy. The ocean pounds outside my window. Had dinner and discussion with “Environmentally Friendly Busan” citizen group, including doctors (one from Green Doctors), a news anchor, dentist, YMCA and YWCA presidents, newspaper editor and city council member. We had good discussion about their goal of getting more open space for the city, as Korea is developing on a China-like scale from what I can see on my short tour of duty. The Green Doctors rep invited me to help in work he is doing with North Korea, which he says is environmentally devastated, in addition to floods, famine, etc. 

Time to sleep and do it again tomorrrow: Changwon University, Panel with UN and Japan in Changwon, “The Environmental Hub of Asia,” etc.

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Photo credits: fukagawa, jsteph, tylerdurden
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Korea Green Cities Tour

Sunday, I leave on a tour of Korea sponsored by the US Department of State’s Economics, Trade and Global Issues office, to lead discussions and presentations on measuring and developing Green Cities.

It will be my first trip to Korea, and my packed schedule includes meeting and lecturing with officials from the United Nations, national government, including the Environmental Minister, mayors and other officials in four cities (Seoul, Busan, Seungnam and Changwon, “The Environmental Hub of Asia”), the Korean Land Corporation, The Korea Energy Research Institute, and professors and researchers from numerous Korean universities, including the pre-eminent Seoul National Unviersity.

Non-profits and non-governmental groups I’ll have discussions with include the Korea Green Foundation, the Green Women Federation, Green Transport and the Eco Plan Research Center.

Looks like there’s much interest in greening new development and greening existing cities in Korea. We’ll see next week how much of that interest translates into tangible progress.

I also am meeting with Cisco officials on their “Connected Urban Development” initiative, which provides PDAs with transport information in Seoul, as well as communications tools for plit projects in Amsterdam and San Francisco.

More to come while in Korea, or upon my return next Saturday.

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