Environmental Cooperation Program


Thematic Research

Director: Soojin Park (Dept. of Geography)
Co-Researchers: Dowon Lee (Dept. of Environmental Planning), Wonsuk Choi (Gyeongsang Univ.)

− Rapid economic growth in East Asia and the accompanying increase in environmental hazards and disasters
− Necessity of a new paradigm able to deal with the complexity and diversity of the environmental crisis
− A Multi-agent System(MAS) to establish land use planning and decision making
− Research on the value and potential use of pung su as a commonly held Asian value
− Establishment of network hub among domestic and international researchers

Pursuing a Change in the Perception of East Asia’s Environmental Problems and Solutions

Research Topics
Many international organizations including the United Nations warn that should we fail to achieve the paradigm shift seeking to coexist with the environment, Asia’s sustainable development may be difficult. In this context, the Environment Cooperation Program (ECP) is conduct­ing research in three areas.

First, ECP aims to develop a multi-agent system, which simulates the human-nature interaction from the perspective of a complexity system and supports the decision making process. Second, ECP reinterprets Pungsu through the traditional knowledge and empirical science system shared by East Asian countries. ECP also aspires to shape a new environmental perception in East Asia through “Pungsu as Asia’s com­mon value.” Third, ECP endeavors to develop a network that establishes a viewpoint based on the complexity system and social ecological system, and popularize results derived from such efforts.

Major Research Outcomes
During the past three years, ECP has simulated human influence on the natural environment from the complexity system perspective. Simulation results were used to develop LUDAS (Land Use DynAmic Simulator), a land use decision making system, and investigate possibilities of applying it to various countries and environments. LUDAS is currently being implemented on issues such as the changing ecosystem service in Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province, desertification of Mongolia, water resource problems in Laos, and land degradation and poverty problems in North Korea.

An important accomplishment in 2015 was the completion of the data development on North Korea’s environment, which is funded by the Korea Forestry Promotion Institute. ECP also conducted research on the efficiency of the land use decision making system, with funding from the National Institute of Forest Science.

The most significant achievement regarding the ‘Pungsu as Asia’s common value’ research was the establishment of Pungsu Research Council of East Asia, in that ECP was able to construct an organization of researchers who reinterpret Pungsu from a contemporary perspective. In February 2015, ECP held an international seminar about the ‘contemporary
reinterpretation of Pungsu’ in Yunnan Province, China, and is planning to organize the third East Asia Pungsu Workshop in February 2016 in Okinawa, Japan. In Korea, two research reports are to be published as a follow-up to two on-site workshops and one symposium.

In order to promote the popularization of research results, ECP cooperated with Korea Green Foundation to hold the Green Asia Talk in the first half of 2015, during which Asian environmentalists discussed major environmental issues and the orientation of Asia, and the Green Job Talk Concert in the second half of 2015, which aimed to provide career
exploration opportunities to the youth. Further, to develop a research network with experts, ECP held the ‘Socio-ecological System’ research seminar with funding from the National Research Foundation of Korea.

Future Challenges and Outlook
Recently, the international viewpoint surrounding the environment has been experiencing drastic changes. It is now evident that the logical positivist approach, which subdivides and analyzes environmental factors, would be difficult to develop into a general law should it fail to consider regional distinctiveness and historicity.

As the complexity system approach is receiving attention given these circumstances, it is becoming more convincing that the genuine knowledge system to solve problems must actively adopt traditional knowledge embedded in the region’s long history. Various environment-related UN organizations are striving to incorporate traditional knowledge of each country and region into the policy-related sectors. China is focusing much effort into inscribing Pungsu/Feng Shui on UNESCO’s
World Heritage List as one of its inherent cultural assets. Likewise, the Japanese government is actively internationalizing ‘Satoyama (里山),’ a concept similar in some respects to Pungsu.

On the contrary, in Korea, interest in Pungsu still remains at the individual researchers’ level. Experts are especially biased against traditional knowledge such as Pungsu, particularly because of the damage Pungsu inflicted upon traditional society. However, in most cases, disapproval of Pungsu derives from blind faith in Western studies. It is unfortunate that the majority of those who dismiss Pungsu as insignificant do not fully understand the current international discourse. Whether Pungsu will remain as an unscientific superstition or become a new knowledge system that complements contemporary science is an issue that our generation must deliberate on.