Tuesday, March 30, 2010
South Korea has long taken the books of Lester Brown to heart. It started in 1980 with a young man named Yul Choi, who was one of the leaders of the democratization movement in South Korea. In jail for his pro-democratic activities, he read The 29th Day, a book Lester had written in 1978. He vowed then that if the democratization movement succeeded, he would use the energies of this student movement to save Korea’s environment.
Six years and a number of other environmental books later, he founded the first environmental NGO in South Korea: the Korean Research Institute of Environmental Problems (KRIEP). Due to KRIEP’s efforts, environmental issues became a major platform for the democracy movement, paving the way for a civilian government. In 1988, KRIEP merged with two other environmental groups, becoming KAPMA (Korean Anti-Pollution Movement Association) with Mr. Choi as its president. Nuclear waste was a big issue.
With the environmental movement engaged, there was also the need for environmental information. A South Korean publishing company called Earth Love Publications recognized the value of global environmental information and began publishing books by Lester in 1990.
In 1993, KAPMA united with seven local environmental groups to launch the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement (KFEM), and Mr. Choi became its first and present secretary general.
KFEM is the largest and most influential NGO in South Korea, with 85,000 members and 47 local branches working on a variety of environmental, human rights, and economic issues. For his incredible work, Mr. Choi was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 1995.
Dedicated to environmental literacy, KFEM publishes a magazine and books through its publishing house Doyosae. Mr. Choi had met with Lester a number of times when he had visited the United States. Thus, when we started Earth Policy Institute, it was a natural for us to approach Doyosae, which enthusiastically agreed to publish our books—and has been doing so ever since. Under Mr. Choi’s direction, Lester has traveled several times to South Korea to speak, meet with political leaders, and launch his books. Conversely, when Mr. Choi is in the United States, he takes time to meet with Lester.
The two men share a strong mutual admiration for each other's work. When Mr. Choi started the Korea Green Foundation in 2002 to focus on developing solutions to environmental and social issues and to foster cooperation among government, corporations, civic organizations, and individuals, Lester agreed to be an advisor.
In 2008 Lester was in Seoul to launch the Korean edition of Plan B 3.0. Mr. Choi put together a program that included a press conference in the airport when Lester arrived, three major speaking events, exceptional media coverage,and meetings with the mayors of Seoul and Incheon City.
Reah Janise Kauffman
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