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Environment Cooperation Program

Along with rapid economic growth, the Asian region is having to deal with environmental pollution and natural disasters, and the threat to the sustainability of local ecosystems is increasing. For Asia to achieve sustainable development, it is important to understand multiple dimensions of the interactions between humans and nature in order to coexist with each other. The Environment Cooperation Program (ECP) aims to 1) develop a multi-agent system simulating the human-nature interactions from a complexity system perspective; 2) foster a new perception of the environment by reinterpreting pungsu (Chin. feng shui, geomancy) as a common value and scientific system of traditional knowledge and experience shared across East Asia; 3) build a network and promote the complexity system and social-ecological system perspectives. For the past four years, ECP research activities have focused on constructing a spatial database covering the entire Asian region, analyzing environmental changes in Asia, and developing a multi-agent land use decisionmaking system. The Program also exerted great effort to popularize the complexity system and traditional East Asian knowledge by organizing seminars and workshops for researchers.

Research Topics

In 2016, ECP conducted research in four directions. First, it gathered spatial information from the database it had been building since the first year of the project and generated basic data for the research on the local environment at different spatial scales. ECP researchers utilized the data to assess the value of ecosystem services in Asia and gave a presentation on East Asian trends in ecosystem services and their comparative evaluation by method at the Asia-Pacific Session of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) in November 2016. From February 18 to 22, 2017, ECP and the Korean National Institute of Ecology jointly hosted Asian experts of IPBES in order to assess the value of ecosystem services in the Asia-Pacific region.

The second direction is the utilization of the previously built multi-agent land use decision-making system. The Program is conducting a comparative study of five regions in Asia to increase the efficiency of land use and reduce land degradation. A survey of current conditions of mountain areas, carried out by the Korea Forest Service in collaboration with ECP, aims to provide basic information on land use efficiency. It analyzed, categorized, and examined features of Korean topography, and several findings were presented at the 2016 International Geographic Congress. The Korea Forestry Promotion Institute’s project evaluating the scale of land degradation in North Korea and seeking measures for its restoration was carried forward in connection to ECP’s construction of a land use decision-making system.

Third, the Program was actively involved in operations of the Complexity System Research Society and Pungsu Research Council of East Asia. The research team of the Complexity System Research Society carried out a project of the National Research Foundation of Korea (“Ecosystem Services and Local Knowledge in the Social-Ecological System: Building a Restoration Research Network”) and hosted international seminars on restoration in March and April 2016. The Pungsu Research Council of East Asia also organized several seminars along with a special session for the Annual Meeting of Korean Geographers in 2016. Titled “The Present and Future of Korean Pungsu Studies,” the session invited Korean pungsu experts from different fields to discuss issues, vision, and methodology of Korean geomancy. Fourth, focusing on the activities of the above-mentioned organizations, the Program sought out means to reevaluate and modernize pungsu so it leads the construction of a new paradigm in social, spatial, and traditional environmental thought of Korea and the Asian region.

Major Research Outcomes

In 2016, ECP incorporated its findings in the book Reading the Future of East Asian Pungsu: Traditional Knowledge Becomes Science (edited by SNUAC, Vol. I, Geobook) with the goal of popularizing the pungsu discourse. A synthesis of natural sciences and humanities, this book reinterprets pungsu and suggests ways for its utilization. Experts from diverse fields—landscape ecology, religion, history, geography, architecture, topography, etc.—participated in the writing, comprehensively covering geomancy discourses in Korea, China, and Japan. The book emphasized the importance of accepting and utilizing pungsu as an environment-friendly empirical science and traditional knowledge.

At a workshop on the modernization of pungsu in December 2016, it was decided to publish an introductory book on modern Korean pungsu under the title Pungsu 101. The volume will be edited by the Pungsu Research Council of East Asia and target the general public, intending to systematically explain the modern meaning of pungsu and break the existing stereotypes. It is expected that researchers with different areas of expertise will discuss—under the topics of “history,” “theory,” and “modern reinterpretation”—the history of geomancy and major concepts of Korean pungsu and cast light on its scientific interpretation from environmental and ecological perspectives.

Outlook and Tasks for the Future

The utmost goal of ECP for 2017 is to establish the Asian Center for Sustainable Land Use and prepare the ground for its independent operation as a core research and networking institution in sustainable land management in Asia. To this end, it will be necessary to obtain a pool of international researchers and cooperate with specialists and related agencies possessing networks in the field, while gradually reducing SNUAC support and building an operational system enabling the autonomous operation of the Center. ECP will build the foundation for a spatial environmental information system targeting the entire Asian region and support research on important ecological zones. Planned case-studies include South China, Mongolia, the Korean Peninsula, North Korea, and the Mekong River Basin. Through these initiatives, the Center plans to achieve its primary goal of performing the role of Asian hub for the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) research on the economics of land degradation across the globe.

Another task set by ECP is to promote reinterpretation of pungsu as system of empirical science and traditional knowledge shared by East Asian countries and to develop it into a common Asian value. China and Japan are investing great effort in popularizing their geomancy principles overseas. In contrast, in Korea, interest in pungsu remains at an individual level. To reduce differences between countries and facilitate mutual consent on developing geomancy as a common value, the Program plans to host an international seminar of the Pungsu Research Council of East Asia where pungsu researchers will be able to interact and discuss the possibility of applying pungsu in the modern world. At the same time, ECP will publish books reinterpreting pungsu from the perspective of modern geography and introductory volumes on modern pungsu to enhance its image among the general public and encourage its modernization. In the future, the Program also plans to open a symposium on inscribing pungsu on  UNESCO’s World Heritage List.


Institute for East Asian Pungsu Studies and SNUAC eds. (2016). <Reading the Future of East Asian Pungsu: The Scientification of Pungsu, the East Asian Traditional Knowledge>. Geobook

Dowon Lee (2016), <Looking into Scenery Thoroughly: The Landscape of the Silk Road and the Ecological Imagination>. Geobook

Dongsuk Huh, Yoo Soon An, and Soo Jin Park (2016). Strategies to Implement Decision Making Processes in an Agent-based LUCC Modeling: a Case of Gariwang-san Region. The Geographical Journal of Korea Vol. 50, No. 1

Virasith Phomsouvanh, Vannaphone Phetpaseuth, SooJin Park (2016). Study on Climate Change Impacts on Hydrological Response using a SWAT model in the Xe Bang Fai River Basin, Lao People’s Democratic Republic. Journal of Korean Geographical Society Vol. 51, No. 6


SooJin Park (Dept. of Geography)

Dowon Lee (Dept. of Environmental Planning)
Wonsuk Choi (Gyeongsang Univ.)

Research Assistants:
Chungwon Kim (SNU)
Jisoo Park (SNU)
Hyeseob Shin (SNU)
Seungjin Lee (SNU)
Jinsook Chung (SNU)