For Life on Earth

OUR PLANET 9.1 - The Way Ahead

For Life on Earth


World Environment Day has been celebrated for many years in the Republic of Korea. However, it was not until last year that 5 June was legally recognized as a national environment day. Furthermore, 1997 marks the first anniversary of the Presidential Vision for Environmental Welfare, in which our President, Young Sam Kim, expressed his commitment to leading the way for environmental protection in Korea.


With rapid economic growth in the last 30 years, Korea has emerged as one of the new economic powers in Asia. However, the lack of attention given to environmental protection has left much of the country's natural environment degraded. Today, the focus has turned to the environment and, now more than ever, Korean people are actively engaged in the protection of our precious environment. Moreover, in 1996 the Government established the National Action Plan of Agenda 21 to realize sustainable development in the 21st century. With the Presidential Vision for Environmental Welfare and the National Action Plan, environmental implications are now recognized as a priority concern in all policy-making. To encourage and respond to national environmental concerns, this World Environment Day will bring education and inspiration to the people of Korea to put their strong commitments into action.

The theme of World Environment Day 1997, For Life on Earth, focuses on the survival of all the species and ecosystems that help sustain life on Earth. It also recognizes that all life forms must co-exist in harmony, as symbolized on the emblem.

As the prelude to World Environment Day, various events have been planned, including the 1997 International Media Conference on the Environment and Development (3-4 June) at which more than 80 international journalists will discuss the role of the media in protecting the global environment.

UNEP's Global Youth Forum 1997, with the theme of The Challenge of the Next Millennium, will be held from 3-8 June. Since 1985, the Global Youth Forum has brought together thousands of youth from diverse backgrounds to foster international environmental dialogue and to build networks to strengthen the foundation of the environmental youth movement.

On 4 June, leaders from various countries and sectors will gather for the Roundtable Meeting on Environment and Ethics. Through this conference, the Seoul Declaration, which calls for the need to redefine environmental ethics for the 21st century, will be adopted. This is a people's declaration to change how we view our natural environment and to show our ethical commitment to keeping our promises to the Earth.

The highlight of World Environment Day will be its Main Ceremony. The programme includes Korean folk dance, speeches on environmental protection given by the VIPs present and via satellite, and the Award Ceremony for Global 500 laureates. As a conclusion, the Seoul Declaration will be announced, launching a global campaign starting with the participants of the Main Ceremony.

On 6 June, 80 parliamentarians will discuss ways to promote the transfer of environmental technologies at the fifth Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Conference on Environment and Ethics. From 8-11 June the International Exhibition on Environmental Technologies 1997 (ENVEX) will provide environmental industries throughout the world with the opportunity to present their advanced environmental technologies to the participants of World Environment Day.

Additional events are planned at the national and community levels. Local communities are arranging showcase events that reflect their special characteristics, such as the declaration of Local Agenda 21s and the Save Our Stream campaigns, while non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector have organized over 60 events, both big and small, including the International Environmental Cartoon Festival, wild-flower exhibitions, dramas, concerts and seminars.


The Government is maintaining close contact with NGOs, corporations, and the private sector through the establishment of the Organizing Committee of WED 1997. Headed by the Prime Minister as the Honorary Chairman, it includes representatives from the media and environmental and social NGOs, as well as from religious, economic, women's and youth groups. As the Special Adviser for International Affairs, Maurice Strong, the Executive Coordinator for United Nations Reform, has contributed greatly to our preparation. The Republic of Korea is making every effort to prepare efficiently for this occasion, as the eyes of the world will be focused on our country.

We would like to ensure that whatever activities are undertaken, they will lead to tangible and realistic results, not just empty words.

Hyon-Wook Kang is Minister for the Environment of the Republic of Korea.

Complementary articles in other issues:
Michael Meacher: A stronger conscience (Looking Forward) 1999
Keizo Obuchi: Into the 21st century (Looking Forward) 1999



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